Terrestrial locomotion

animal locomotion on land

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.

An example of terrestrial locomotion. A horse galloping: an animation by photos of Eadweard Muybridge
No legs! Tracks of a sidewinder snake in Death Valley, California

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

Legged locomotionEdit

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 locomotionEdit

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,[1][2] some animals can move by rolling their whole body.

Limits and extremesEdit

The fastest terrestrial animal is the cheetah, which can get speeds of about 104 km/h (64 mph).[3][4]

Related pagesEdit


  1. LaBarbera, M. (1983). "Why the wheels won't go". American Naturalist. 121 (3): 395–408. doi:10.1086/284068. S2CID 84618349.
  2. Richard Dawkins (November 24, 1996). "Why don't animals have wheels?". Sunday Times. Archived from the original on February 21, 2007. Retrieved 2008-08-03.
  3. Garland, T., Jr. (1983). "The relation between maximal running speed and body mass in terrestrial mammals" (PDF). Journal of Zoology, London. 199 (2): 155–170. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1983.tb02087.x. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2018-08-31. Retrieved 2010-10-07.
  4. Sharp, N. C. (1994). "Timed running speed of a cheetah (Acinonyx jubatus)". Journal of Zoology, London. 241 (3): 493–494. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.1997.tb04840.x.