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Snakes have been seen doing somersaults after they’re scared



A dwarf reed snake in Malaysia 

Shutterstock / Vince Adam

When threatened, the dwarf reed snake can somersault away from hazard. The pinnacle-over-tail tumble is the primary kind of energetic rolling movement documented in any snake or reptile.

Most snakes defend themselves by hissing, hanging or slithering away from predators. However dwarf reed snakes (Pseudorabdion longiceps) – native to forests of Southeast Asia – take a extra inventive method.

“I had observed a dwarf reed snake perform this behaviour once prior to this report but did not have the equipment at the time to record it. It was such a surprising behaviour to watch, and it really stuck with me,” says Evan S. H. Quah at College Malaysia Sabah. “This time, we had our camera gear in hand.”

In August 2019, Quah and his colleagues discovered an grownup dwarf reed snake crossing a street in Kedan, Malaysia. After they approached, the snake started tumbling. First, it contorted into an S-shape, then lifted the entrance half of its physique off the bottom. Pushing off from its tail, the snake turned completely airborne. Simply when its head appeared like it could hit the bottom, the snake quickly tucked underneath and coiled right into a circle. Because it made a full rotation, it pushed off the bottom once more.

The tumbling snake seen by Evan S.H. Quah and his colleagues in Malaysia

Evan S.H. Quah

The snake travelled round a meter and a half downhill in 5 seconds – far quicker than it may have by slithering. Whereas some snakes will let gravity carry them down a slope, known as passive rolling, dwarf reed snakes are actively and repeatedly launching their our bodies into the air in a transfer Quah calls a cartwheel. As a result of this escape technique requires a whole lot of vitality, Quah suspect snakes are tumbling away solely when very spooked.

“I’ve seen snakes do a lot of weird things…but nothing like this,” says Frank Burbrink on the American Museum of Pure Historical past in New York. “It’s a pretty shocking behaviour that shows us that even in the year 2023, there are so many things left to be discovered with snakes.”

Quah needs to research if different snakes can journey this manner, too. “There are only anecdotal reports of a few other species from the same family, Calamariinae, that can cartwheel,” says Quah. Now, he simply must get them on digicam.


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