14 Animals That Slither Like Snakes (With Videos)

Animals That Slither Like Snakes
Fact Checked and Reviewed by: Mark Rhodes, Ph.D. - Wildlife Biologist
Dr. Mark Rhodes holds an MS in Fisheries and Wildlife along with a Ph.D. in Wildlife Ecology. He helps maintain our editorial standards of accuracy and quality. You can read more about Dr. Rhodes here.

While researchers haven’t even discovered the many animals that are part of the animal kingdom, with so many different animals, it only makes sense that there are some traits that can be noticed across different species.

For example, the way that snakes move isn’t unique to just snakes. There are several other animals that move by contracting the muscles along their body or by pushing off of the terrain using their body.

So, what are some other animals that slither like snakes?

Some animals that move like snakes include legless lizards, skinks, Asian jumping earthworms and other earthworms, snake eels and other eel species, caecilians, salamanders, leeches, and slugs. They often slither or move side-to-side making an S-shape like a snake. Some animals like octopi, crocodiles, and seals move like a snake sometimes but not always.

Below, we’ll take a closer look at these different animals that slither like snakes, as well as a few features that make them similar and different from the snakes that share their movement.

Legless Lizards

At first glance, the legless lizard really does look like a snake. It has the same long appearance and reptilian skin. However, once you get past the scales, appearance, and the way that they move like a snake, legless lizards are another species entirely.

For starters, legless lizards have eyelids and can blink. By contrast, snakes have semi-transparent eyelids and they are actually one of the few animals that can see with their eyes closed.

Legless lizards also differ from snakes because they have ear holes, whereas snakes don’t have external ears. Finally, legless lizards have the incredible ability to grow back their tail if they lose it.

Where legless lizards don’t differ from snakes is the way that they move. Some of the more common species of legless lizards that move like snakes include the slow worm, mimic glass lizard, eastern glass lizard, slender glass lizard, and island glass lizard.

Skinks

While some species of skinks do have legs, they don’t generally use them. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if skinks eventually evolved to do away with their legs altogether, similar to the way that snakes and glass lizards have.

Since skinks don’t actually use their legs, they slither on the ground just like the snake does. They also burrow using the same motions and are considered a reptile like a snake.

There are some skinks that actually have evolved to be born without legs. Interestingly, there are also some species that have previously lost their legs that eventually grew them back.

Asian Jumping Earthworms

The jumping earthworm is considered an invasive species. Unlike the typical earthworm that most people are familiar with, Asian jumping earthworms move like a snake and recoil when disturbed by contracting their muscles.

These earthworms also contract their muscles to move like a snake that moves with rectilinear movement.

While they are typically smaller than the average snake, Asian jumping earthworms are double the size of regular earthworms.

Other Worms

Like snakes, worms have muscles all along their bodies that help them move through and across the ground using locomotion. As their muscles contract, worms also stretch out their individual segments so they become long and thin.

The way that worms stretch helps them move quicker in the dirt than they would be able to if they were only using their muscles. However, they rely on moisture to help them move easily through the dirt because their bodies secrete a slimy coating.

This doesn’t mean that worms cannot move across the dry ground at all, they just can’t move anywhere near as efficiently. Some researchers believe this may be one of the reasons that you see worms out after rain (there are a few other theories).

Snake Eels

If you’ve ever been walking along the coast and saw what looked like a snake’s head poking out of a small burrow in the water, you may have seen a snake eel.

Snake eels can be found in warm waters all over the world and they frequent coastal areas.

Even though they move in water instead of on land, they still move using that same S-shaped movement that snakes are known for. Snake eels also burrow into substrate like fossorial (burrowing) snakes.

Some people mistake snake eels for sea snakes, however, they are two very different creatures. Snake eels are fish, while sea snakes are reptiles that breathe air.

Other Eel Species

While the snake eel burrows like a snake, it isn’t the only eel species moving around under the water like a snake.

Most eels are recognizable by their ribbon-like shape and the S-shaped movement as they swim along. By contrast, a swimming sea snake looks more like a rope.

While some species of eels have one or more fins, they aren’t really strong enough to help push them through the water. They are also capable of swimming forward and backward.

Caecilians

Researchers have identified around 200 species of caecilians, which resemble snakes or earthworms but aren’t either.

Instead, caecilians are legless amphibians, with some species living on land, some living in water, and some being truly amphibious and calling both places home.

There isn’t a lot known about the various species of caecilians because they burrow in the ground, moving along the same way that snakes do. What is known about them is that the various species have a lot of differences- there are caecilians as short as 3.5 inches and as long as 5 feet!

Salamanders

Salamanders resemble something that looks like a cross between a lizard and a frog. Like worms and some other animals on this list, they secrete a gooey substance that helps them move along where they need to go.

While salamanders do have legs that they use to push themselves along, they still move side-to-side with an S-shaped movement. This is because they only have four legs and they have very long slender bodies.

There are many well-known salamander species that move like a snake. This includes hellbenders, mudpuppies, and newts.

Leeches

Leeches aren’t really something that you want to find attached to yourself after a swim- but they do have a lot of uses in the medical field. They’re also pretty interesting when you consider the fact that they have 6 hearts, 10 eyes, and 32 brains– and that’s just the beginning!

Leeches live in a few different environments, preferring still water. They live in marine, freshwater, and terrestrial environments, particularly wet terrestrial environments like the rainforest.

They don’t use muscles to pull themselves forward like snakes do, but they do use their forward and rear suckers to propel themselves.

Snails and Slugs

Most people come across snails and slugs living in their backyards or in gardens. There are a lot of species of snails and slugs and all of them slither across the ground similar to some species of snakes.

Instead of slithering forward using muscles like snakes, snails and slugs emit a slimy coating similar to the one some other animals like eels do.

This serves the purpose of protecting them from anything they might slither across on the ground, but it also serves as a scent trail to lead them back home.

The Octopus, Crocodile, and Seal

There are a few other animals that slither, however, it isn’t the only way that they move across the terrain of their environment. So, I’ve created this honorable mentions category for creatures like the octopus, crocodile, and seal.

The octopus slithers along the sea bed by using the suckers on its tentacles to pull its body forward. An octopus also moves by shooting water from its siphon like jet propulsion, which it is more likely to do when it’s startled or moving quickly.

While crocodiles are known for being able to crawl, walk, and swim, they also slither along like a snake. This happens because of the natural movement of their body because of how long it is compared to their short legs.

Finally, seals are a really unlikely animal to think of when you consider animals that slither like a snake.

While they are graceful in the water, however, seals don’t move around on land very well because of the shapes of their bodies. Instead, they wriggle their bodies side-to-side while moving so they are more efficient.

What Animal Moves Like a Snake? 

All the animals on this list move like a snake, including legless lizards, skinks, Asian jumping earthworms and other earthworms, snake eels and other eel species, caecilians, salamanders, leeches, and slugs. Even the octopus, crocodile, and seal slither sometimes.

While not all of these animals move exactly the same, that’s okay because not all snakes move exactly the same way either. There are four distinct types of snake movements or “slithers” and within these identified movements, there are even more categories.

How Do Snakes Slither?

Did you know that not all snakes move exactly the same? Snakes slither differently based on their environment and what style of movement works best in their natural habitat.

There are four basic types of snake movement. This includes serpentine locomotion, concertina locomotion, rectilinear locomotion, and sidewinding. For people who are more visual learners, here is a video that breaks them all down.

While snake movements typically fall under one of these four classifications that have been identified by the scientific community, even snakes slithering with similar motions might have different movement patterns.

Some researchers have noted differences in snake movement across these four categories, especially when it comes to the differences between aquatic and non-aquatic snakes.

Serpentine Locomotion

Serpentine locomotion (or lateral undulation) is the most common type of movement that snakes use. It’s the kind most commonly witnessed in zoo settings and some snakes only use this type of movement for their entire lives.

A snake is moving using serpentine locomotion when they make S-shaped loops and use them to push its body off of the terrain. These loops push off of uneven areas of terrain like sand or pebbles, as well as things like twigs, branches, and rocks.

The disadvantage of serpentine locomotion is that it only works against surfaces that have some kind of resistance the snake’s body can push off of. Snakes that move like this won’t be able to move across smooth surfaces like glass.

Concertina Locomotion

Concertina locomotion is aptly named because a snake moving this way looks like an accordion (or concertina). Moving like this is effective in habitats that don’t have as much traction for snakes, as well as arboreal habitats.

Snakes that use this method of movement keep the tail and rear of their body anchored to the ground while they reach their head as far as it will go. Then, they pull their tail forward, anchor it, and reach forward again.

The snakes most known for using concertina locomotion are tree snakes, though some snakes use it to move across the ground, too. Arboreal snakes have an especially compressed body that makes it easier for them to do this motion and reach between branches. Their joints stiffen and their body gets rigid, letting them travel far lengths.

Rectilinear Locomotion

Snakes that use rectilinear locomotion move using small muscles on the sides of their bodies. As they contract these muscles down their body, the muscles push on individual scales that move the snake forward.

Rectilinear locomotion is also sometimes called caterpillar locomotion because of the similarities between how these snakes and caterpillars move. It’s most commonly used by big-bodied snakes like some species of boas and vipers.

Sidewinding

The best way to describe sidewinding is that the snake looks like a coiled spring moving across the terrain. Instead of moving forward, the snake travels sideways.

Sidewinding is most commonly used by desert snakes since it’s a lot more effective in the sand compared to other movements.

As an added benefit, sidewinding stops the snake’s body from coming into contact with the terrain for any extended period of time. This is important because of the heat in the desert. Without this adaptation, snakes wouldn’t be able to travel during the hottest part of the day.

Final Word

There are a lot of animals in the animal kingdom that slither the way snakes do, particularly when you consider all four different types of snake movement. While these critters don’t share all features with snakes, most of them are legless and use their ability to slither to travel and move through or across the ground.

Some of the animals that move like a snake include legless lizards, skinks, Asian jumping earthworms and other earthworms, snake eels and other eel species, caecilians, salamanders, leeches, slugs, octopi, crocodiles, and seals. Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed learning about them as much as I have!

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