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Title: Reaction Forces and Rib Function During Locomotion in Snakes
Synopsis Locomotion in most tetrapods involves coordinated efforts between appendicular and axial musculoskeletal systems, where interactions between the limbs and the ground generate vertical (GV), horizontal (GH), and mediolateral (GML) ground-reaction forces that are transmitted to the axial system. Snakes have a complete absence of external limbs and represent a fundamental shift from this perspective. The axial musculoskeletal system of snakes is their primary structure to exert, transmit, and resist all motive and reaction forces for propulsion. Their lack of limbs makes them particularly dependent on the mechanical interactions between their bodies and the environment to generate the net GH they need for forward locomotion. As organisms that locomote on their bellies, the forces that enable the various modes of snake locomotion involve two important structures: the integument and the ribs. Snakes use the integument to contact the substrate and produce a friction-reservoir that exceeds their muscle-induced propulsive forces through modulation of scale stiffness and orientation, enabling propulsion through variable environments. XROMM work and previous studies suggest that the serially repeated ribs of snakes change their cross-sectional body shape, deform to environmental irregularities, provide synergistic stabilization for other muscles, and differentially exert and transmit forces to control propulsion. The costovertebral more » joints of snakes have a biarticular morphology, relative to the unicapitate costovertebral joints of other squamates, that appears derived and not homologous with the ancestral bicapitate ribs of Amniota. Evidence suggests that the biarticular joints of snakes may function to buttress locomotor forces, similar to other amniotes, and provide a passive mechanism for resisting reaction forces during snake locomotion. Future comparisons with other limbless lizard taxa are necessary to tease apart the mechanics and mechanisms that produced the locomotor versatility observed within Serpentes. « less
Award ID(s):
1661129 1655756
Publication Date:
Journal Name:
Integrative and Comparative Biology
Page Range or eLocation-ID:
215 to 231
Sponsoring Org:
National Science Foundation
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