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Rattlesnakes’ scales help them sip rainwater from their bodies

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In the deserts of the southwestern United States and Mexico, infrequent storms can result in fewer opportunities for desert creatures to find water. But several rattlesnake species have a rain-harvesting trick: They sip rainwater, sleet, and snow caught by the nanotexture of their scales.

After studying the scales of the Western Diamond-backed Rattlesnake, researchers have discovered that the snake’s dorsal scales, the scales along their back, “aid in water collection by providing a highly sticky, hydrophobic surface, which pins the impacting water droplets… this high pinning characteristic stems from surface nanotexture made of shallow, labyrinth-like channels.” The snakes also coil and flatten, most likely to improve the efficiency of the technique.

This American Chemical Society video summarizes the research.

rattlesnake sipping water from scales

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