Vincent Stin

What are the interactions between a swimming snake and the surrounding water?

The main method of locomotion of a snake on land is its characteristic periodic oscillation. Underwater, its movements can be more complex due to the ability to move in all 3 dimensions, but oscillation is always present. The elongated and limbless morphology of snakes has been conserved over more than 100 million years of evolution and through more than 3000 species and several lineages of snakes have evolved independently back to aquatic life. It is possible to observe counter-intuitive phenomena such as the possibility of a land snake having a better athletic performance than an aquatic snake. Some questions then arise, such as how efficient is the undulatory swimming of snakes?

The main goal of this PhD project is to characterize the hydrodynamics of snake swimming in 3 dimensions. The interaction between water and many snake species will be studied experimentally using a Particle Image Velocimetry system. This system allows to measure the water displacements around the swimming snake and to obtain velocity fields. It is thus possible to study the morphology and the behaviors of the snake wake. A hypothesis to be verified or invalidated is that the adaptation of the snake to an aquatic environment is characterized by its ability to reduce its drag profiles and thus increase its efficiency.

This multidisciplinary project at the interface between biomechanics and hydrodynamics aims to (1) establish a database of velocity fields of various snakes (morphology, lifestyle, etc.) and (2) characterize their hydrodynamic behaviors and estimate their difference in swimming efficiency.

PhD student in the BIOMIM (PMMH) and MECADEV (MNHN) teams
Supervisors: Ramiro Godoy-Diana (PMMH), Anthony Herrel (MNHN) and Xavier Bonnet (CEBC)
Doctoral school: EDPIF (Sorbonne University).
Funders: IPV doctoral program (Sorbonne University), ANR DRAGON2 (ANR-20-CE02-0010)