So, as I understand it, wheels are almost completely absent in nature, in terms of a method of mobility. Would it be possible, or reasonable for such a creature to be made along the lines of evolution? If so, how? Could such a creature achieve such size as to be big or fast enough to be a mount?

I hypothesized that an insect like creature with feet that formed a circular set of smaller legs could then use them as spokes, moving the outer rim of a wheel in a circular motion. Where they'd get the wheel is anyones guess, but it was a start, I suppose.

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    $\begingroup$ You might find this interesting: smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/… $\endgroup$
    – Kai
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 6:49
  • $\begingroup$ Unfortunately it highly unlikely as that sort of development would have very little benefit and world actually be more complex than flight for an animal, let alone being big enough to ride, and the energy needed to push itself along would be so much higher than using all those legs to walk. Wheels are completely absent in nature as nature hasn't found a way of allowing a limb to turn more than one rotation of itself. an owl can turn its head 360, but then has to go back again, it can't keep going, same principle here $\endgroup$ Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 7:01
  • $\begingroup$ Also related is worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/20699/… $\endgroup$
    – Aify
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 7:47
  • $\begingroup$ You might want to consider first whether the road is a plausible evolutionary development. The wheel is likely not of much use without a contiguous, large (or at least long) and reasonably flat surface. There are some desert mammals that clear paths to run alone, so the idea is perhaps not entirely without merit. The biomechanical problems are huge however though I did read an imaginative suggestion of an organism evolving to attach a circular seed pod (to a bone spur on its feet, I think) - though I don't remember where. $\endgroup$
    – Paul
    Commented Sep 7, 2022 at 16:39

3 Answers 3


The problem, as I understand it, is axles. There's no way for a living creature to have an axle as part of its body - it would need blood vessels and nerves, both of which would be twisted by spinning. And if the axle is nonliving (say some kind of secretion, or keratinous growth) it wouldn't be able to form complex shapes, and would be rather brittle. To say nothing of how painful the spinning would be, with all the creature's weight on it.

Your point about finding a wheel is an interesting twist - you could imagine a creature that runs around the inside of a free wheel, like one of those hamster balls. You might even posit that the wheels are picked up, hermit-crab-like, from another species (presumably molluscoid) that happens to grow in that shape. The problem there would be coasting - if the creature stopped running, they'd be carried back along the wheel until they fell off or their weight brought it to a halt.

In theory, you could have a wheel in two sections, an inner and outer ring, linked by ratchets - it would spin freely in one direction but not the other, so you could run around the inner ring to get the outer one up to speed, then sit back and let it ratchet down. I have to imagine it wouldn't be all that efficient, mechanically, and it would be very fragile because of all the fine teeth.

There's always the hoop snake, of course, which (mythically - it's not a real beast) curls itself into a loop and rolls downhill. But one feels that's cheating somehow... and it wouldn't work, of course.

Sadly, I think in terms of pure efficiency, walking has rolling beat for animals.

  • $\begingroup$ What about a weird symbiosis where one creature is the body and one is the wheel? While this would be a bit wild perhaps, it would solve the blood vessel and nerves issue $\endgroup$
    – Raditz_35
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 7:12
  • $\begingroup$ @Raditz_35 That's certainly a bizarre interaction, but it could happen. But without something to let the wheel spin freely of the body, you can't coast, and that means it's not really more efficient than walking. Perhaps two wheel-symbiotes with the ability to adjust whether they lock together or not... $\endgroup$
    – Cadence
    Commented Jun 1, 2018 at 7:15
  • $\begingroup$ It actually is possible to provide blood to a spinning limb. For example by allowing only short sprints with the wheel, and providing blood when the wheel isn't spinning. You could also have the vessles "connect" through the center of the wheel. The bloodvessles don't need to truly be attached, as long as they provide a bloodtight seal against the wheel. Nerves could use neurotransmitters and a circular chemical bridge that the nerve can connect to. Each circle providing for a single muscle/sensitive area. $\endgroup$
    – Demigan
    Commented Jun 3, 2018 at 9:44
  • $\begingroup$ Tumbleweeds seem to get around pretty well by rolling. It all depends on your weather and terrain. $\endgroup$
    – Some Guy
    Commented Jun 17, 2020 at 9:41

If you want to have a wheel-like subsystem, you need to solve a major problem: how to isolate the rotation of the sub-system from the remaining elements.

On a car or a chariot this is achieved by bearings, but this is not feasible in living organisms, where the need of having "cabling", normally called blood circulation system and nervous system, going through every part of the body necessarily limits the degree of relative motion between adjacent parts.

This doesn't mean evolution didn't discover the wheel. We have examples of animals which use the sphere as configuration, partially also to enable quick escape. But that is used at system level (the entire body), not a sub-system (one or more limbs).

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In extremely complicated theory its ofcourse possible. In practice not. Evolution happens because a genetic trait gives a teeny tiny advantage which causes more with that mutation to survive and eventually spread the mutation to everyone.

The golden wheeled spider can form a sort of Ball with his body and limbs and then roll off of sand-dunes to safety. (near the end of the video) https://youtu.be/ltvLo2vNls0

The thing is, his rolling capacity wasnt an advantage until he could well and truly roll. Any creature that has wheels for limbs needed to go through an evolutionary period where his wheels arent complete and need to offer an advantage without being able to roll. It has happened a lot that first one trait of an evolution was handy, and that this managed to develop most of another evolution that wouldnt have worked otherwise. But what evolution would favor the dangling half-wheels to form far enough to go to full wheels?

Theres also the complicated matter of getting blood and nerve-connections into the spinning wheel. Its fully possible to create something like that, but not easy and probably impossible for evolution to create. You also need a bunch of mini-limbs that push the wheel to roll, or break the wheel when the creature needs to walk.


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