Slithering is a motion of the body that produces a forward movement. Legless creatures commonly use this mode of movement to get around, such as snakes and worms. Even animals with small limbs are able to slither.
Personally, I love watching animals slither. It’s just a completely different way of movement that humans are used to — and that’s what makes it so fascinating. Then again, I’m not saying I’ve never tried slithering across the floor after a couple of strong margaritas. I have! And trust me, it is by no means easy.
What’s more, I think slithering animals are fascinating as a whole. Between their anatomy and rich histories, there’s so much to enjoy about these wonderful creatures.
Are you fascinated by animals that slither? Can you name an animal that slithers? Okay, so you probably can. But can you name five animals that slither? Now that’s a little trickier. Know what’s even harder? Naming ten animals that slither.
In this article, I am going to show you ten creatures from the animal kingdom that slither or are at least capable of slithering. Enjoy! And if you can think of any more that I haven’t mentioned on this list, be sure to reach out to me and let me know!
Snakes, also known as serpents, account for more than 3,400 species of reptiles distinguished by their legless bodies and elongated body and tail.
In recent years, scientists have found a fascinating explanation for the snake’s effortless slithering — its thin coat of fatty lubricant embedded on its scales. These findings explain why snakes are so slick and move so easily. They also indicate a new kind of coating for snake-inspired robots.
“You know at county fairs, when you have the greased pig contest?” says Joe Mendelson, a herpetologist at Zoo Atlanta who wasn’t involved with the study. “These guys just showed that snakes are self-greased pigs.”
Snakes can climb trees, swim, move across hot deserts, and even glide. None of these incredible moves would be possible without their lubricated outermost scales.
Unlike the snail which smooths its path by secreting trails of wet lubricant which helps it move along, the snakes’ lubricant remains embedded on their scales, forming a slick layer much like that responsible for keeping human joints lubricated.
Sadly, snakes are greatly misunderstood creatures, with people perceiving them as a significant threat to life. When in actual fact, only a small percentage of snakes are venomous. Statistics show that a huge majority of snakebites happen out of defense — during catching and handling of captive snakes.
Worms are animals with soft, elongated bodies that slither to get one from place to another. There are many species of worms including flatworms, earthworms, arrow worms, and many more.
Nobody appreciated the wonders of worms more than Charles Darwin. Famous for his theory of evolution, Darwin studied worms for nearly forty years. He also published a book on them in 1881 which suggested that earthworms are the most important creatures on the planet. He may have had a point. Worms are way more interesting than I ever imagined…
For instance, did you know that worms breathe in through their skin, as they have no lungs? They can also regenerate some segments of their body if it gets cut off or injured. Most fascinating: worms are said to digest around half of their body weight each day.
According to scientists, worms are actually older than dinosaurs. While the first dinosaurs appeared over 200 million years ago in the Mesozoic Era, earthworms have been around for approximately 600 million years.
Wow. I’m actually pretty stunned over how fascinating these slithering creatures are. Who knew that worms could have such a rich history??
Slugs aren’t exactly my favorite animal on this list. Some may even call them a little gross. That’s what I thought, until I did some digging into what these slithering creatures are all about.
Like worms, slugs secrete a slimy substance whenever they move forward. The slime enables them to slither and protect them from sharp objects in their path. Let’s say they slithered over an upright razor blade or knife…they would not be cut thanks to their protective lubricant.
This animal relies on its sense of smell to get around and can use their slimy trails to guide them back home. When the slime trail dries out, it turns into a sliver track.
Did you know slugs are related to oysters, octopi, and clams? Yup, I didn’t know either. That’s because they are all mollusks, soft-bodied invertebrates typically covered by a hard exoskeleton.
Depending on the species, slugs can live up to six years. Female slugs usually live the longest.
Another member of the mollusk family, snails are one of the slowest animals on earth. They’re very similar to a slug. The only difference is that the snail has a hard shell, whereas the slug does not.
Snails rely on their mucus to move around. Like other animals that slither, they secrete their mucus whenever they slither, which helps them get around without harm. Studies suggest that snail mucus might be helpful in speeding up wound healing by stimulating an immune response that boosts skin cell regeneration.
One fact about snails I found particularly interesting: several species have hairy shells. Ever saw a snail with a furry shell? Neither have I. So you can imagine my surprise when I read that hairy snails really do exist. Scientists suspect that this adaptation may improve locomotion in wet environments since snails with hairy shells live in humid areas.
Love them or hate them, snails are definitely impressive. Admit it.
Salamanders are amphibians that look something between a frog and a lizard. With their long, slender bodies and super moist skin, salamanders slither and slide to get around. They produce a mucus that coats their skin, enabling them to move around seamlessly.
Did you know salamanders are cannibals? Yeesh, I never expected that one! But it’s true that when given the opportunity, they’d eat a smaller salamander with no regrets.
Like worms, salamanders are also capable of regenerating lost limbs. Some species can even regenerate damaged organs due to their special immune system.
Hellbenders, often known as snot otters, are large, aquatic amphibians with a long wrinkled body, flat head, and paddle-shaped tail. Two subspecies of hellbenders exist in the United States — the eastern hellbender and the Ozark hellbender. The latter is smaller with larger black blotches on its body.
They may have tiny eyes, but hellbenders can see with their entire body. That’s because they have light-sensitive cells all over their bodies which enable them to detect light and form images. This enables them to hide under rocks and logs without being noticed. Although under rocks is where they spend most of their time, as hellbenders are solitary creatures.
If I were a slithering creature, I’d imagine myself as the hellbender, hanging out by myself — and loving every moment of it! I’d also cherish that vision ability!
Hellbenders can slither, swim, and walk. Yup, they’re a talented bunch!
Leeches creep a lot of people out. Okay, I admit it, they sort of give me the same feeling. However, once you get to know this creature a little better, you realize that it’s actually pretty fascinating. Let me tell you a little bit about this slithering creature so you can form an opinion for yourself.
For starters, the skin of leeches is not black and it’s not slimy, either. The leech species used in medicine, known as the hirudo medicinalis, is green with orange and yellow dots. It’s a little tacky to the touch, but not slimy.
On top of that, leech anatomy is amazing. Each leach contains ten eyes, six hearts, 32 brains, 10 pouches for storing blood, and 200 enzymes.
The fact that surprised me the most: very few leeches are interested in feeding on human blood. They’ll do it when given the opportunity, but they don’t spend their days feeding on it.
Another fascinating fact: leeches are FDA approved. That’s right. After surgeons reattach an earlobe or finger, they may use leeches to encourage blood flow and prevent oxygen loss. They’ve been approved by the FDA since 2004.
Wasn’t that all really interesting? I bet you have a newfound respect for leeches. Or maybe you don’t. I get it. They still are a little gross.
Legless lizards come in over 80 different species mostly found in North America. Several species live in Asia, Europe, and Australia. Legless lizards typically inhabitat dry habitats such as woodlands, lowland grasslands, prairies, and rocky areas. They can survive on multiple altitudes ranging from sea level to over 5000 feet.
The main threat of legless lizards today is habitat loss. Although another major concern is this: thousands of legless lizards are killed every year because people confuse them with snakes. Many species of legless lizards are listed as endangered.
These creatures do indeed look a lot like snakes but they differ in a few characteristics. For instance, legless lizards have scales on the belly, moveable eyelids, and the ability to reject the tail in the case of a threat.
Some species of legless lizards have limbs and remnants of hip bones, but they cannot walk. They slither.
According to science, legless lizards can survive up to 20 years in the wild and 38 years in captivity.
Eeels are elongated fish that are covered with slimy mucus that allows them to slither around reefs and rocks without getting scratched. Most eels live in the ocean and burrow in sand, mud, or rocks. Freshwater eels live in rivers and lakes. For short distances, eels can travel on land. Thanks to their mucus-covered bodies, they are able to do it without hurting themselves.
Eels begin as flat, transparent larvae where they drift in surface waters and feed on dissolved nutrients. They change into glass eels and once more into elvers before becoming an adult.
In many cultures, eel is considered a delicacy. However, its blood is toxic so it needs to be cooked efficiently in order to be consumed otherwise it can be extremely dangerous.
Many eel species are nocturnal, which is why they are very rarely seen. Their diet includes a variety of things including worms, insects, frogs, crabs, and other fish. Yup, they’re certainly not picky!
Interestingly, eels have really poor eyesight. It’s one of the reasons they often bite the fingers of divers who feed them. They’re not doing it intentionally. They simply cannot see.
According to scientists, the average lifespan of an eel is 80 years.
They swim, walk, crawl, and slither. Oh yeah, and they absolutely terrify us!
Crocodiles are some of the most skillful predators on Earth. With their powerhouse jaws, short legs, and clawed webbed toes, they have a unique body form that enables ears, eyes, and nostrils to stay above water while most of their body is hidden below. Their tail is huge and the skin is thick with scales.
Surprisingly, crocodiles are closely related to dinosaurs and birds — far more closely related than animals classified as reptiles.
And just in case you were wondering if that myth was really the truth, crocodiles really do produce tears. When they eat they swallow too much air which affects their lachrymal glands, forcing tears to flow. It’s not exactly crying, but hey, it looks pretty much the same! The phrase “crocodile tears” actually refers to an insincere display of emotion.
While crocodiles may be the biggest reptile on earth, their ancestors were much bigger. Crocodiles that appeared around 250 million years ago were far larger than today’s counterparts. Hard to believe, huh? I can’t imagine how terrifying they would have been back then!
Did you know that crocs have an average lifespan of at least 30 years? Larger species live much longer than that — up to 70 years. And there are even claims that some crocodiles have exceeded 100 years. Wow!