Swimming Through Sand

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Shovel-nosed snakes and sandfish lizards both swim through granular materials like sand. Researchers at Georgia Tech used x-rays to observe their subsurface motions. Despite their different shapes, the long, slender snake and the shorter, wider lizard both move under the sand by projecting traveling waves along their bodies. The snake’s long, skinny body allows it to have more bends along its length, which increases its transport efficiency because it allows the snake to move mostly through the tunnel created by its head’s passage. In contrast, the sandfish’s motions fluidize the sand around it, enabling it to swim. Although the snake is faster, both animals have optimized their motions for fast, low-energy transit according to their body type.  (Video credit: Georgia Tech; research credit: S. Sharpe et al.; via io9)

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