Large and stout snakes commonly consume large prey and use rectilinear crawling; yet, whether body wall distention after feeding impairs rectilinear locomotion is poorly understood. After eating large prey (30–37% body mass), all Boa constrictor tested could perform rectilinear locomotion in the region with the food bolus despite a greatly increased distance between the ribs and the ventral skin that likely lengthens muscles relevant to propulsion. Unexpectedly, out of 11 kinematic variables, only two changed significantly (P<0.05) after feeding: cyclic changes in snake height increased by more than 1.5 times and the longitudinal movements of the ventral skin relative to the skeleton decreased by more than 25%. Additionally, cyclic changes in snake width suggest that the ribs are active and mobile during rectilinear locomotion, particularly in fed snakes, but also in unfed snakes. These kinematic changes suggest that rectilinear actuators reorient more vertically and undergo smaller longitudinal excursions following large prey ingestion, both of which likely act to reduce elongation of these muscles that may otherwise experience substantial strain.

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