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Desert Diary

Reptiles/Snake Ribs


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A persistent rumor has it that men have one less rib than women, based on the biblical story where Eve was made from a rib of Adam. Men, of course, are not missing a rib, and if the truth were to be known, probably really couldn't afford to lose a pair. After all, people normally only have 12 pairs of them. Any of our desert snakes could tell us that the proper number is several hundred. Goes to show that snakes aren't all that smart. Balancing three or four hundred body segments on top of two legs wouldn't work at all.

On the other hand, snakes don't have that problem, having no legs at all. And their ribs are critical to their being able to travel without limbs. Muscles attached to the ribs and backbone segments allow them to move a body loop from head to tail, much as flipping a rope sends a wave along its length. The snake's loop pushes against the ground, pushing the body forward. Try that with only 12 pairs! pen and ink



Contributor: Arthur H. Harris, Laboratory for Environmental Biology, Centennial Museum, University of Texas at El Paso.

Desert Diary is a joint production of the Centennial Museum and KTEP National Public Radio at the University of Texas at El Paso.

partial snake skeleton

Part of a snake skeleton showing the numerous ribs.