Slippery Coating Makes Snake Bellies Slither

Fatty layer covering snakeskin protects animal’s underside against scrapes and wear.

Snakes can slither smoothly over almost any surface, from jungle branches to desert sands, without damaging their skin – an ability that has fascinated researchers.

“How can snakes move across very harsh and abrasive environments and still have belly skin that is shiny and smooth?” asked Stanislav Gorb, who studies biomechanics at the University of Kiel in Germany. “Is it the material the scales are made of? The tiny microstructures on them? The molecules they are coated with?”

Gorb and his collaborators have performed research exploring many of these questions. They are presenting it this week at a meeting known as the AVS International Symposium and Exhibition in San Jose, California. Read more in Inside Science.