Tag: skin

Snakes: What makes them slither?

If you had no legs or arms, wouldn’t it be difficult to get from place to place? However, snakes don’t have any legs and they get around just fine! Almost all land animals had legs to propel themselves forward, so how do snakes move so effectively? The biology of a snake involves a series of ribs and muscles that contort a snake’s body to push itself forward. Not only does the snake’s internal makeup allow it to move, but also its exterior. Snakeskin has frictional properties which allow it to remain stationary along an incline with just a few scales in contact with a surface!

Snake moving from branch to branch.
Photo by Krzysztof Niewolny on pixabay.

A snake’s ability to slither across the ground is made possible by its ability to bend using a series of muscles along their body. The scientific term for this bending motion is lateral and vertical bending. A snake uses lateral bending to change direction or propel itself forward along a flat surface. Vertical bending is employed when a snake is pushing off a surface intending to move upward, such as in a tree or on a steep rocky slope. Using the terrain upon which the snake is traversing, the snake is able to propel itself forward by pushing off uneven ground, sand, branches, or other obstacles. 

Snakes have a series of hundreds of ribs that run along the entire length of their body. Not only do their ribs provide a firm foundation for the snake to push itself off of the ground, but they also provide structural support for the snake to traverse gaps along a surface such as holes, tree branches, or other places where a snake cannot use bending to move. With respect to slithering, the ribs of a snake allow it to bend and coil to get the best contact with the ground.

Close-up of snakeskin showing the layout of scales along the body of a snake.
Photo by Paul Brennan on pixabay.

However, it is not just the forces that snakes apply to the ground that allow them to move, but also the makeup of their skin. Snakeskin has frictional properties that allow them to get a better grip on the surface upon which they move. For example, if a surface is slippery or at a steep incline, a snake can increase the surface area their skin covers by changing the angle their scales come into contact with a surface. 

Understanding how snakes move without the use of legs is important for engineering applications. Legless robotics can be designed using the concept of the biomechanics behind the movement of snakes. For example, this could be implemented in terrestrial rovers that can travel across uneven terrain.  In addition, materials science applications for purposes of gripping can mimic snakeskin for higher friction abilities. This would be greatly beneficial for sports, military, or medical equipment where gripping ability determines overall usability. 

Video by Snake Discovery on Youtube
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Dolphin Magic or Dolphin Muscle?

Because of the film Bee Movie, many people at one point were intrigued by the idea that bumblebees should not physically be able to fly due to their large bodies and tiny wings. But, they fly anyway. Technology is advanced enough to study bee wing movement and determine that they produce enough lift to allow them to fly, disproving the previous notion. Similarly, Gray’s Paradox for a long time inferred that dolphins should not be able to swim nearly as fast as they do. But, they still consistently swim at speeds over twenty miles per hour. It was not until recent history that advancements allowed researchers to determine why they are able to reach such high speeds.

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What Can Different Types of Facial Wrinkles Tell Us?

Few people enjoy having wrinkles. Some people spend a lot of time, money and efforts trying to reduce the wrinkles on their face, while others simply appreciate them as something naturally occurs with aging. Regardless, wrinkles are always associated with aging. However, if we look into what different types of wrinkles are and how they form, we will find that not all wrinkles are bad. Not all wrinkles are caused by aging, and not all wrinkles should be treated the same way. Here, we introduce different types of facial wrinkles categorized by plastic surgeon and their corresponding treatment.

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How Mice Could Help You Regenerate a Lost Limb

If you have ever experienced a nasty scrape or burn, you know the process of healing is not very fun. Human skin can take several weeks to regenerate after an injury and that often comes with a fair amount of pain. For a bigger injury that involves tissue damage, there is often little the human body can do to regenerate larger parts. However, thanks to a small rodent – the African spiny mouse – regenerative medicine for humans could be making huge advances in the near future.

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Why your scar tissue isn’t an issue

What do knee scrapes, adolescent acne, and paper cuts have in common? They all have the potential to leave a nasty scar. For people who have undergone trauma that results in serious wounds, especially on the face, scar aging is a serious concern. What are scars, and why does scar tissue tend to look different than regular skin as aging occurs?

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Cause and Management of Stretch Marks

Stretch marks. How are they caused? Can they even be treated?

Stretch marks can happen to anyone, of any age, so these questions are important to many. In short, our skin is made up of both collagen and elastin, two elements that support and shape our skin through their natural elasticity. This elasticity, however, does have its limits. And when that breaking point is reached, the collagen and elastin rupture, leaving behind scars many know well – a stretch mark.

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Scleroderma and Raynaud’s Phenomenon: Cold Weather’s Influence on Skin

Anyone who is familiar with winters that are mainly at temperatures in single digit range knows how crucial gloves are to surviving the tough, frigid weather. If one was to go outside without them, their hands become extremely pale (or sometimes almost blue) and, once back inside, take a bit of time to get back to normal. It’s a tough life, I know, but people with a scleroderma have an even harder time surviving the winter. What is scleroderma, you ask? Scleroderma is an autoimmune disease that causes skin and internal organs to thicken, and if that wasn’t tough enough, a good chunk of people with it also experience secondary Raynaud’s phenomenon, which is an exaggerated vasoconstriction of arterioles in response to cold weather and causes a drop in blood flow. The main, visible outcome from this disease is how the skin whitens and swells. Problems must ensue from the combination of thick skin and lack of blood flow to the extremities, right?

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