NEW YORK (BBC): With the help of a robot, US researchers have described for the first time precisely how ‘sidewinder’ rattlesnakes climb up sand dunes. By observing snakes on an artificial dune, they found that on steeper slopes the animals flatten themselves to increase their contact with the sand. They then tested the new insights with a robotic snake and calculated the best strategy for snakes - and robots - to scale sandy slopes without slipping. The work appears in Science Magazine. Unstable, granular surfaces like sand dunes pose a particular problem for animals and robots trying to traverse them. ‘We originally hypothesised that the way the snakes could ascend would be to dig their bodies more deeply into the sand, just like we would do on a sandy slope,’ said senior author Dr Daniel Goldman, who runs a biomechanics lab at the Georgia Institute of Technology. That was not what he and his team found, however, when they painted reflective markers - carefully - on to six venomous rattlesnakes and put them to work on a tilting bed of sand, fresh from the Arizona desert that these snakes call home.

‘One of the first surprises was how nice these animals are as subjects - they tend to just sidewind on command,’ Dr Goldman told.-BBC