A YouTuber gives snakes their legs back to make them walk. Because, why not?

Is it reversing evolution through engineering?
Ameya Paleja
walking snake2.jpg
Walking snake


  • Snakes lost their legs over 150 million years ago.
  • Giving them their legs back is a massive challenge.
  • YouTuber's attempt is valiant but falls miserably short.

YouTuber Allen Pan decided to do something that many ophiophilists- people who like snakes - have wondered about. What would snakes look like with legs? His video gives us the answer.

According to evolutionary biologists, the reptilian ancestors of snakes had legs. When we say ancestors, we mean really ancient ones, more than 150 million years ago. Over a long period of time, snakes gave up their strut and chose to slither along the ground. If you would like to know more about how that happened, here's an NPR report.

Contrastingly, the major job of giving them their legs back happened much faster, as you can see in the video below.

Why did the snake want legs?

We have previously reported how students have turned to 3D printing to provide prostheses to injured dogs. These are good-hearted people wanting to give these animals the option to move around freely, to their heart's desire.

In the case of YouTuber Allen Pan, though, this logic doesn't really fit. The snakes are neither injured nor missing a critical component for their locomotory needs. So, apart from playing God, there seems to be very little reason to power through something like this.

As seen in the video earlier, he does show us the visuals of his inspiration behind doing this. So, before we proceed towards how effective this build has been, no snake actually approached the YouTuber, asking for a quartet of legs.

Does the contraption work well?

Luckily though, Pan is smart enough to realize that not all designs can be deployed. The first approach, especially, as seen in the video, required a snake to be strapped into some crawly toys. Realizing this folly early on, the YouTuber also seems to be considerate enough to use a dummy snake for these attempts rather than harassing a real one.

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Pan's second design, as seen in the video, is far superior and unharming to the snake it is designed to help. The long clear plastic tube which houses the snake is connected to four legs, each consisting of three joints, and for now, it looks like it can only move forward.

Once the snake enters the tube (mostly by constant nudging for now) and reaches the other end of the tube, Pan can put the contraption to work and take the snake for a 'walk.' Since the plastic housing cannot be closed, the snake is free to walk away anytime it wants.

Guess that's the biggest sign of a user unsatisfied with the product and major feedback for Pan's design. For its big premise, the product is rather rudimentary and does not really add an ability that the snake was missing. Perhaps, giving the snake more control over where the robot heads or the ability to scale flat walls would get the snakes interested.

Guess Pan learned the hard way that reversing evolution is not that easily achievable. If only he had read the NPR report we shared earlier, he would know that at a molecular level, snakes actually have all the necessary components to grow legs. Next time, perhaps, genetic engineering will yield better results.

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