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Terrestrial locomotion facts for kids

Kids Encyclopedia Facts
Muybridge race horse animated
An example of terrestrial locomotion. A horse galloping: an animation by photos of Eadweard Muybridge
Sidewinder death valley
No legs! Tracks of a sidewinder snake in Death Valley, California

Terrestrial locomotion has evolved as animals adapted from aquatic to terrestrial places. Movement on land makes different problems than that on water, with less friction instead being the effects of gravity.

There are three basic forms of movement found among land animals:

Legged locomotion

Movement on legs is the most common form of land movement. It is the simple form of movement of two big groups with many members, the vertebrates and the arthropods.

Limbless locomotion

Aegista tokyoensis 01
A snail moves by slithering.

There are a number of land and amphibious limbless vertebrates and invertebrates. These animals, due to lack of legs, use their bodies to move. These movements are sometimes called to as "slithering" or "crawling".


The pangolin Manis temminckii in defensive position.

Although animals have never have wheels for locomotion, some animals will move by rolling their whole body.

Limits and extremes

The fastest terrestrial animal is the cheetah, which can get speeds of about 104 km/h (64 mph).

Related pages

  • Walking fish
  • Charig, A.J. (1972) The evolution of the archosaur pelvis and hind-limb: an explanation in functional terms. In Studies in Vertebrate Evolution (eds K.A.Joysey and T.S.Kemp). Oliver & Boyd, Edinburgh, pp. 121–55.
  • Reilly, Stephen M. and Elias, Jason A. 1998, Locomotion in alligator mississippiensis: kinematic effects of speed and posture and their relevance to the sprawling-to-erect paradigm, J. exp. Biol 201,2559-2574.
  • García-París, M. & Deban, S. M. 1995. A novel antipredator mechanism in salamanders: rolling escape in Hydromantes platycephalus. Journal of Herpetology 29, 149-151.
  • Tenaza, R. R. 1975. Pangolins rolling away from predation risks. Journal of Mammalogy 56, 257.

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