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Rattlesnakes’ scales help them sip rainwater from their bodies

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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