Study shows snakes use more force than necessary when climbing trees

Aug 20, 2014 by Bob Yirka report
Credit: Western Pacific Tropical Research Center

(Phys.org) —A pair of researchers, one with Siena College in New York, the other with the University of Cincinnati in Ohio, has found that climbing snakes tend to use much more force to hold onto trees than is needed to keep them from sliding back down. In their paper published in the journal Biology Letters, Greg Byrnes and Bruce Jayne describe how they tested snakes climbing in their lab and what they learned as a result.

Climbing is no easy feat for those that lack claws or other means of attachment—it generally means using brute force which requires some degree of strength. Humans for example, though well muscled in some respects are not well adapted for tress when there are few or no tree limbs to use for assistance—it requires wrapping arms and legs and feet tightly around a trunk and inching upwards. Snakes use very much the same technique, wrapping their bodies around a tree trunk in a coil, then inching their way up by releasing, moving various parts at the appropriate time and then re-gripping. In this new effort, the researchers sought to learn more about how much effort the snakes put into tree climbing.

To find out how tightly snakes must grip to climb, the researchers affixed pressure sensors to a pole, which they then covered with tennis racket tape—the combination provided enough friction for adherence by the snakes. They then coaxed five different snakes into climbing the pole, monitoring their progress as they went—four of the snakes were of the boid (boas) species the other a colubrid (a python).

In examining their results, the researchers found that all five snakes clung much tighter to the pole than was necessary to prevent slipping or falling—they suggest this is because the snakes placed more importance on clinging to the tree than they did on conserving energy. What's interesting is that the snakes had a choice—prior research has shown that climbing have very fine control over the amount of squeezing they exert—and thus they are choosing to squeezer harder than they know they need to—and are doing so despite the fact that a fall from a tree in their native habitat would not likely cause injury. This suggests the added pressure is to ensure they don't fall when predators are around or because they don't want to have to climb the tree again.

Explore further: US wildlife officials propose limiting snake trade

More information: Gripping during climbing of arboreal snakes may be safe but not economical, Biol. Lett. August 2014 vol. 10 no. 8 20140434. Published 20 August 2014 DOI: 10.1098/rsbl.2014.0434

Abstract
On the steep surfaces that are common in arboreal environments, many types of animals without claws or adhesive structures must use muscular force to generate sufficient normal force to prevent slipping and climb successfully. Unlike many limbed arboreal animals that have discrete gripping regions on the feet, the elongate bodies of snakes allow for considerable modulation of both the size and orientation of the gripping region. We quantified the gripping forces of snakes climbing a vertical cylinder to determine the extent to which their force production favoured economy or safety. Our sample included four boid species and one colubrid. Nearly all of the gripping forces that we observed for each snake exceeded our estimate of the minimum required, and snakes commonly produced more than three times the normal force required to support their body weight. This suggests that a large safety factor to avoid slipping and falling is more important than locomotor economy.

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User comments : 16

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ViperSRT3g
not rated yet Aug 20, 2014
It could just be a fear of heights.
Expiorer
5 / 5 (1) Aug 20, 2014
I would guess all of that too.
(without research)
Shitead
3.7 / 5 (3) Aug 20, 2014
When did 'The Onion' buy out 'Phys-Org'?
Iochroma
3 / 5 (4) Aug 20, 2014
Sloppy reporting in the article above: pythons are not Colubrids. It should read such as this: four sp. were Boids (boas and pythons), one was a Colubrid (Boiga irregularis).
Uncle Ira
3.4 / 5 (5) Aug 20, 2014
Sloppy reporting in the article above: pythons are not Colubrids. It should read such as this: four sp. were Boids (boas and pythons), one was a Colubrid (Boiga irregularis).


Well Skippy that is some sloppy critizing of the article. Colubridae (the Coloubrids) DOES include the pythons, and the boas, and a whole lot many more.
antonima
5 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2014
I would guess all of that too.
(without research)


Yes, but it isn't SCIENCE if it isn't measured. In the current scientific paradigm all the conjectures in the world cant substitute a few hard numbers.
Expiorer
1 / 5 (1) Aug 20, 2014
I would guess all of that too.
(without research)


Yes, but it isn't SCIENCE if it isn't measured. In the current scientific paradigm all the conjectures in the world cant substitute a few hard numbers.


So when I will measure length of my poo it will be science?
Iochroma
1 / 5 (1) Aug 20, 2014
Sloppy reporting in the article above: pythons are not Colubrids. It should read such as this: four sp. were Boids (boas and pythons), one was a Colubrid (Boiga irregularis).


Well Skippy that is some sloppy critizing of the article. Colubridae (the Coloubrids) DOES include the pythons, and the boas, and a whole lot many more.


You are mistaken.
Whydening Gyre
5 / 5 (1) Aug 20, 2014
Yes, but it isn't SCIENCE if it isn't measured. In the current scientific paradigm all the conjectures in the world cant substitute a few hard numbers.


So when I will measure length of my poo it will be science?

Nobody said science was pretty...
Toiea
3 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2014
Study shows snakes use more force than necessary when climbing trees
It all depends on what kind of muscles the snakes are using for gripping. The smooth muscles don't need to exert an additional energy for to remain in contracted state in the same way, like the attracting magnet doesn't need an energy for exerting of force. If you have gripping force for free, why not to use it for increasing of safety?
antonima
3 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2014
I would guess all of that too.
(without research)


Yes, but it isn't SCIENCE if it isn't measured. In the current scientific paradigm all the conjectures in the world cant substitute a few hard numbers.


So when I will measure length of my poo it will be science?


LOL

Boas and pythons, aren't those all constrictors?
Snakes eat about once a month right? How are they able to kill a buffalo if they only do their constricting once a month? It seems like the snakes have to work out. They constrict the hardest, roundest things they have in their habitats (trees) every opportunity they get. Dogs do this too, they will chew on stuff to sharpen their teeth and develop stronger jaws.

Am I the first one to connect the dots here? Or the last? Lol
Captain Stumpy
3.5 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2014
Sloppy reporting in the article above: pythons are not Colubrids. It should read such as this: four sp. were Boids (boas and pythons), one was a Colubrid (Boiga irregularis).


Well Skippy that is some sloppy critizing of the article. Colubridae (the Coloubrids) DOES include the pythons, and the boas, and a whole lot many more.


You are mistaken.
@Iochroma
not according to Wiki

https://en.wikipe...lubridae

now is there a specific reference that you can provide that is more accurate?
perhaps you have a link to a taxonomical reference used by zoologists that shows them related otherwise?
I would love to see it, please.
and IF the Wiki is wrong, I will submit your link to the Wiki for clarification and adjustment. (and I promise to give your moniker above full credit)

so if there is proof and clarification, then by all means, put the link up so we can all beon the same page... THANKS in advance
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Aug 20, 2014
So when I will measure length of my poo it will be science?
@Expiorer
if it is done in a systematic way without bias and compared to other excretions (or even your own over time), and this is documented in a formal regular fashion which details as much information as it can about the "donation" then YES... it is science: http://www.efsmi.org/

and if done correctly, it can tell you a great deal aobut a person, their health and so much more
http://www.ncbi.n...3399928/
Captain Stumpy
3 / 5 (2) Aug 21, 2014
You are mistaken
@Iochroma
so, am i to assume by your downvote that you have NO other site to prove your point?

My comment was offered because I see a list that I feel is accurate giving the information that I have looked up. I wished to know if that was accurate and valid, but you've offered nothing.

You claim this is wrong

I would like to know your SOURCE of information and WHY you think it is wrong... that WAS it...
But NOW... by your downvote and SILENCE, I can now only assume that your post was meant as a TROLL comment to denigrate another and the findings because you are inept and not able to show proof of comment.

Thanks for letting me know to watch your posts in the future, and let others know that you are just TROLLING.
jlpspartan
not rated yet Sep 05, 2014
i agree with @Iochroma
as an owner of both royal pythons and corn snakes i can tell u that they r right
a royal python is in the family of pythons and a corn snake is in the colubrid family of snakes
here is a good link that shows what i mean

http://reptilekno...cle9.php
jlpspartan
not rated yet Sep 05, 2014
i agree with @Iochroma
as an owner of both royal pythons and corn snakes i can tell u that they r right
a royal python is in the family of pythons and a corn snake is in the colubrid family of snakes
here is a good link that shows what i mean
as u see from the link there is 5 familys of snakes
including boas,pythons and colubrids
a python cannont be a colubrid as these are both familys of snake and as such a royal is in the python family which means it cant be colubrid http://reptilekno...cle9.php