Unique snake spotted doing cartwheels to escape predators in amazing photos

KOTA KINABALU, Malaysia — A snake in Southeast Asia may be the early frontrunner for athlete of the year! An international team captured the small creature doing some “un-snake-like” acrobatics to avoid its predators. In their new study, researchers say the Dwarf Reed Snake can actually preform cartwheels to escape a threat.

The Dwarf Reed Snake (Pseudorabdion longiceps) is a nocturnal, small snake living in regions of Southeast Asia. While many snakes using common tactics to avoid danger — like slithering away, using camouflage, faking their own death, and intimidating attackers — this little creature literally rolls away!

The team found that the Dwarf Reed Snake repeatedly launches the coils of its body into the air and rolls down hills to get away. This is the first time scientists have ever documented a snake using a cartwheel for any purpose.

“When approached, the snake was startled and throwing the coils of its body into a loop and began rolling to try and escape. The snake cartwheeled approximately 1.5 meters (5 feet) in less than 5 seconds down the road. By cartwheeling down an incline, the snake was able to gain speed and rapidly cover more ground,” the team writes in the journal Biotropica.

snake doing a cartwheel
Series of images showing how the snake throws its coils forward in a cartwheeling motion. (Credit: Evan Quah)

Study authors add that discovering this unique defense mechanism provides even more insight into the kinetic abilities of snakes.

“My colleagues and I were excited when we successfully captured images that documented cartwheeling behavior in this species. We believe that this behavior may be more widespread in other small snake species, especially members of the subfamily Calamariinae, but the lack of records is probably an artefact of the challenges in detecting and observing these secretive species,” says corresponding author Evan Seng Huat Quah, PhD, of Universiti Malaysia Sabah, in a media release.

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