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The amphiptere is a snake with wings and feathers. While they could likely fly around, the lack of scales would be an obstacle to normal snake/lizard locomotion on the ground

What is the most serpentine/saurian way they could plausibly move?

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    – L.Dutch
    Commented Oct 8, 2021 at 20:42

3 Answers 3

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Feathers = scales (sort of)

Any form of movement that involves significant ground contact for your amphiptere will require the feathers on the underside (i.e., those in contact with the ground) to be tougher than those elsewhere so they'll have to be specialized. This is analogous to the way flight feathers and down feathers are very different. These should be shorter and tougher. As such, they can act as substitute scales.

But feathers aren't scales, so...

There's no real way to make feathers as tough as scales. To compensate, they'll have to be fast growing and disposable. Your beast will also have to develop a habit (instinct) of grooming those feathers meticulously to remove old feathers before they become too short and post infection risks.

Now, let's move

Using the underside "walking feathers" as if they were scales opens up the whole range of snake movement. There are at least five modes of snake locomotion

Looking at that list, we see some immediate problems. The amphiptere is typically portrayed as undulating vertically. This may be an artifact of old art styles not handling perspective well, but let's assume it's real. A creature that naturally undulates vertically isn't going to go in for any form of movement that requires them to switch to a horizontal undulation. That eliminates three modes (lateral undulation, sidewinding, and slide-pushing).

Rectilinear movement would work but it also requires the amphiptere to do something that seems unnatural: they must lie flat on the ground. I think this is less of an issue than horizontal undulation. Obviously, the creature is out of its element, so it has to adapt so maybe?

Concertina movement should have been eliminated before because it involves snakes crunching their body up in a series of horizontal bends. But I kept it because I think it could be your best answer. Just turn those bends vertical.

Two methods, which to pick?

Picking really depends on what you want to convey. If you want your amphiptere to be a regal presence, use vertical concertina movement. If you want to knock them down a notch, go with rectilinear.

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They walk Upright

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The wings are near the head, and the animal has no feathers on its underside. It moves like a cobra with the head and wings held vertically off the ground.

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They do not move without flying.

These things are creatures of air like the swift, a bird with legs so short they are useful only for perching. The swift cannot walk, only fly and perch.

https://animalogic.ca/blog/everything-you-ever-wanted-to-know-about-the-common-swift

They need to find somewhere they can fly directly into as they cannot perch or walk like most birds. Equally as tricky is finding a place where they can drop directly out of. They need to plunge a minimum of three metres from their exit point towards the ground so that they are able to start flying before they fatally ground.

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