Youtuber Reverses Evolution By Giving A Snake Robot Legs

Bow down to our new cyborg overlord.


Charlie Haigh

Social Media and Marketing Assistant

clockAug 16 2022, 16:32 UTC
Illustration of a smiling snake flexing big robot arms.
How we suspect the snake feels wearing it's new limbs. Image credit: IFLScience

Ever wondered if snakes miss their legs? Youtube creator and inventor Allen Pan wondered just that – and in turn, gifted us this glorious clip.

Pan’s experiment aimed to allow these limbless reptiles to use four appendages. With the help of snake enthusiast and breeder GranddaddyHerps, he did just that. The video shows the arduous process of 3D printing a meter-long tube with four externally controlled limbs attached, programmed to move exactly like a lizard. The limbs are controlled via a chip in the device that’s synced to a laptop, making the snake a mere passenger in its new cyborg body.


With the introduction of a remarkably relaxed adult female Ball Python, we get to see her reluctantly enter the transparent tube. However, once the snake is inside and the surrogate limbs are moving, she appears to be enjoying the ride. The snake in the video doesn’t show any typical signs of stress for this species. Instead, she seems to be curiously looking around and sensing the surrounding area with her tongue.

But would awarding these noodles the use of their long-forgotten limbs really be undoing an "evolutionary mistake” as Pan jokingly claims? The answer is, probably not. Fossil records of snakes closely resembling modern specimens date back around 150 million years. The earliest snake fossils show they had the use of two small hind limbs, as opposed to four appendages. It’s thought that the gene that encouraged the development of these limbs switched off about 100 million years ago, and they’ve been leg-less ever since.

Vestigial legs are in fact not found in every species of snake, leading evolutionary biologists to speculate about the use of these "vestigial back limbs" in modern species like Pythons and Boas. Some theories surrounding these small "fangs" suggest they serve a different purpose entirely. "Spurs", or more colloquially "bang fangs", are believed to assist in the locking of male and female snakes during mating, allowing the snakes to securely attach to each other’s pelvic bones.

So while the idea of cyborg snakes is hilarious to some (terrifying to others), snakes are actually totally over having limbs.

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