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Animals That Get Around in the Strangest Ways

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Locomotion – the ability to move from one place to another – is one of the key attributes that sets animals apart from plants. While humans are content walking on two legs, the diverse animal kingdom has evolved all sorts of weird and wacky ways to get around. From inchworms scooting along on their bellies to kangaroos hopping on powerful hind legs, nature has a multitude of creative solutions for mobility.

In this article, we’ll take a look at some of the strangest forms of locomotion in the animal world. Get ready for a wild ride as we explore creatures that slither, hover, walk upside down, and even fly through the air without wings! The natural world is full of surprises that’ll make you look twice.

Inchworming Along

Inchworms are aptly named for the bizarre way they move – measuring just an inch or so in length, these little caterpillars propel themselves by drawing their rear ends up to their heads in a looping motion. Also called measuring worms for their inchworm-style movement, they belong to the insect order Lepidoptera which also includes butterflies and moths.

To inch along, these little crawlers grip with their tiny abdominal prolegs, arch their backs, and then stretch forward to grab the surface with their front legs. This looping locomotion lets them move rather quickly compared to their small size – up to 50 body lengths per minute!

Inchworms loop along plant stems and branches in search of fresh, young leaves to munch on. Their unique locomotion style helps them navigate vertical surfaces and reach delicious foliage. While the inchworm’s movement looks strange to us, it’s a sensible evolutionary adaptation for accessing an arboreal food source.

Next time you see a little inchworm dangling from a tree branch, take a moment to admire this mini-acrobat deftly looping its way along in pursuit of a leafy meal. Their wacky walk sure beats slogging along on dozens of tiny legs!

Hopping Mad: Kangaroo Locomotion

When you think of Australia, kangaroos surely bound to mind soon after. Equipped with immensely powerful hind legs and long, thick tails, kangaroos put other animals to shame with their bipedal hopping. A large red kangaroo can cover 25 feet in a single leap and jump 6 feet high, making quite a spectacle as they bound across the Outback.

Kangaroos are the only large animals to use hopping as their primary means of locomotion. Though their forearms are small and used mainly for feeding and support, their massive hind legs and feet do all the work of propulsion. Using their muscular tails as a tripod, kangaroos can balance comfortably while standing still or moving slowly.

To hop, kangaroos first draw themselves up onto their tail and extend their hind feet far out in front of their body. Then they push off strongly, launching airborne. At the apex of their jump, kangaroos whip their hind feet forward to land feet first, ready to push off again. This hopping style allows them to cover ground faster than running quadrupeds.

The mechanics of kangaroo hopping are extremely energy efficient, minimizing effort while bounding long distances. Their tendons stretch like giant rubber bands to store energy on each landing then snap back to propel them forward. Hopping on two legs is also better suited to Australia’s hot, arid climate than running on four.

Kangaroos are the hopping champs of the animal kingdom thanks to specialized anatomy that makes them perfectly adapted for bipedal bounding through the bush. Next time you see a kangaroo gracefully pouncing through the Outback, take a moment to appreciate this bizarre but beautiful mode of locomotion.

Slithering Like a Snake

Of all the wacky ways animals move, snakes arguably have the strangest system. Lacking legs entirely, these incredible tube-shaped reptiles have evolved to propel themselves via horizontal undulations of their spine and belly. Their extreme flexibility allows them to navigate all kinds of environments, squeezing through the tightest tunnels and surprisingly swimming across water.

To slither forward, snakes contract their abdominal muscles to bend their spine into S-shaped curves. These curves propagate down the length of their body, pushing backwards against surfaces to generate forward thrust. The scales on their underside grip irregularities in the ground, providing friction for traction. Sidewinder rattlesnakes have evolved specialized scales on their bellies to enhance this friction when moving across hot desert sands.

Unlike legged animals, snakes distribute their weight evenly across their whole body rather than concentrating pressure on feet or paws. This helps them traverse an array of surfaces and move with great stealth, making them extremely effective hunters. Their slithering locomotion also conserves energy compared to hopping or running.

Some sea snakes have specially adapted their serpentine movement for swimming, developing paddle-shaped tails to drive themselves smoothly through the water. Even speedy black racers, which can move over 4 miles per hour on land, switch to undulating their entire body and tail side-to-side to swim rapidly across lakes and rivers.

However they apply it, slithering locomotion provides snakes with an exceptionally versatile and stealthy way to hunt prey and escape predators across many environments. It’s the perfect system evolved for their long, limbless bodies.

Hovering Like a Helicopter

Most fish rely on either sinuous whole-body undulations or rhythmic tail movements to propel themselves smoothly through water. But some small fish have evolved a very different technique called hovering. By flapping their specially adapted pectoral fins at high speeds, they can stay nearly motionless in the water column.

The techniques varies slightly between hovering species, but usually involves (betta fish) extending their long pectoral fins forward then rapidly beating them in a stiff figure-8 or circular motion. This creates lift and thrust to counterbalance their buoyancy, allowing them to stay suspended without actively swimming.

Many hovering fish, like the betta, live in small bodies of water filled with dense vegetation. Hovering helps them navigate through mazes of plants and closely inspect their environment. Male bettas use hovering displays during complex courtship rituals, showing off their flowing fins to prospective mates.

The wing-like pectoral fins that make hovering possible are not great for sustained swimming. But in their specialized aquatic habitats, the ability to stay suspended and maneuver precisely outweighs speed. Their unique locomotion helps them react quickly to pursue prey, interact with mates, and engage in territorial displays.

So next time you see a betta or goby effortlessly hovering in place, take a moment to appreciate this ingenious evolutionary adaptation. Their distinctive hovering ability allows them to thrive within small, complex aquatic worlds where more typical swimming just won’t cut it.

Spiders Walking Upside Down

If you have arachnophobia, you probably don’t want to read about spiders walking upside down across ceilings – sounds like nightmare fuel! But this remarkable ability sets spiders apart from almost every other animal group on earth. Whereas humans rely on sticky glue or magnets to cling upside down, spiders accomplish the feat using specialized legs and feet.

Most spiders have two claws at the tip of each leg that allow them to firmly grab onto irregularities on vertical or inverted surfaces. Tiny hairs called scopulae on their feet also help grip the surface while their claws hold fast. But the real secret lies in their incredible hydraulic leg system.

Spiders can change the blood pressure in their legs to adjust their grip strength as needed. Raising the pressure hydraulically “activates” the claws and scopulae hairs, allowing them to hold tight to ceilings and walk upside down without falling. Lowering the pressure releases their grip so they can detach a leg and move it forward.

This hydraulic mechanism works through the spiders’ open circulatory system, which lacks closed veins and arteries. By altering the action of their abdominal muscles, spiders pump hemolymph (their equivalent of blood) into and out of their legs as needed during climbing.

Thanks to this specialized anatomy and physiology, spiders can walk on surfaces humans can only dream of, like water! So next time you want to call the exterminator for that spider dangling over your head, take a moment to appreciate this engineering marvel that lets spiders defy gravity. Their skill could inspire new climbing innovations that might end up on your fingertips!

Spiders Take to the Skies

If walking upside down wasn’t bizarre enough for spiders, some species take their gravity-defying abilities even further through “ballooning.” Believe it or not, many spiders can launch themselves into the air and travel hundreds of miles suspended from silken strands to find new habitats. It’s one of the strangest forms of airborne locomotion in nature!

To balloon, often smaller and younger spiders first climb to an exposed perch like a fence post. Then they raise their abdomen to release multiple strands of fine silk that catch an updraft, lifting them skyward. These silken strands can travel for miles on wind currents, transporting the spiders with them.

Once airborne, spiders alter their spread-eagled stance to change direction or control their speed and altitude. When they’re ready to land, they draw in some legs to initiate their descent. Ballooning is an essential means of spider dispersal, colonizing new areas rapidly.

Researchers think static electric fields may help spiders become airborne, with positive charges attracting their spinnerets and negative charges on their silk strands repelling each other to stay straight. Their small size to surface area ratio helps them take flight. Plus, their hydraulic legs let them grip strands firmly for the ride.

Next time you see gossamer spider webs glistening, imagine tiny spider aviators sailing off on the breeze. While humans need complex aircraft to conquer the skies, these clever crawlers use silk strings and air currents to disperse far and wide. Their strangely effective ballooning strategy has helped spiders thrive around the world.


From inchworms looping along to kangaroos hopping for miles, animals have evolved all kinds of wacky and wonderful methods of locomotion. Scurrying, swooping, skittering, slinking – the diversity of animal movement never ceases to amaze!

Each unique mode of getting around serves the animal well in its ecological niche, whether that’s navigating vertical branches, bounding over the desert, or floating through dense water plants. Form fits function in perfect harmony.

But while their movements are sensible from an evolutionary perspective, to our human eyes they look bizarre and strange. We’re so used to our own walking style that other animals seem to defy physics altogether.

Hopefully this article has provided some appreciation for the ingenious ways even the creepiest crawlers and critters get from point A to point B. Their “strange” locomotion strategies are masterpieces of biomechanical engineering. Nature is often stranger than we can imagine, but always perfectly adapted.

So next time you spot an inchworm looping around, try to see past the weirdness and recognize the wonder. The natural world is full of wild methods of locomotion we’ve only just begun to understand. Who knows – someday we might even harness the secrets of animal movement to advance our own transportation technologies!

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