Thousands of species of Real Life organism move by walking, swimming, or flying with wings. Most Speculative Fiction species do the same. But whether to showcase the physical demands of a creature's unusual habitat, to prove it can be done, or merely to make them stand out in a crowd, writers sometimes dream up truly weird ways for their creations to get from point A to point B. Wheels are a common example, possibly for the sheer absurdity of the image.
This trope is not intended for teleportation, plane shifting, and other means of travel that break the laws of physics. (Bending those laws is acceptable, however.) Bizarre technological methods of locomotion belong under the various vehicular tropes.
- M.C. Escher's lithographs "Curl-Up" and "House of Stairs" feature creatures called "curl-ups," which resemble metallic caterpillars with plated bodies and can either curl up and roll, or walk around their weird environment on six humanoid legs.
Films — Animation
- In How to Train Your Dragon 2, the two-headed dragons called Zipplebacks reveal a new ability usable in battle: they curl into a ball and roll across the battlefield, breathing out flammable gas and igniting themselves into tumbling balls of fire.
- The snails from Turbo will "tuck and roll", hiding inside their shells to roll down slopes, if they need to move faster than a crawl and/or shield their soft parts while in motion. This maneuver is how Turbo wins the Indy 5000 after he's injured and loses his Super Speed just shy of the finish line.
- Fighting as a cy-bug, King Candy briefly rolls up into a chitinous ball to chase Ralph in Wreck-It Ralph.
- The Flummels from Extinct (2021) are furry creatures shaped like doughnuts and can move by rolling.
Films — Live-Action
- The Crites from the Critters films curl up and roll when they need to move quickly. In one of the films, a whole swarm of them bunch up into a single large rolling ball.
- Like the Crites above, Fizzgig from The Dark Crystal curls up and rolls whenever his stubby legs won't carry him along fast enough.
- Riddick. The scorpion creatures have perfectly good legs, but in a scene where a horde attack Riddick and Boss John, one of them is seen rolling into the action like the mythical hoop snake before unraveling to attack.
- The Star Wars sequel trilogy has the Starfish Robot BB-8. To clarify, it's by no means uncommon for robots to get around by rolling. But where other robots would roll on wheels (see R2-D2 from the same franchise) or caterpillar treads (see WALLE), BB-8 is shaped like a sphere with a free-moving dome on top, so that his whole body can roll around independently of the dome that functions as his head.
- In The Amber Spyglass, the Mulefa clutch giant seed pods in specialized gripping appendages and roll around like living motorcycles. It's mentioned that when they walk, they do so in a rather clumsy and ungainly fashion, due to the placement of their legs (one in front, two in the middle, one in back, like a diamond shape).
- The Polarians roll around on a single large sphere embedded at the bottom of their tear-shaped bodies.
- The Slash of Galaxy Andromeda look something like a farmer's disc-harrow: a Slash rolls around on disc-shaped projections from its cylindrical body.
- One of the planets colonized by humans has a whole ecosystem based on organisms that look sort of like Earth organisms, but have wheels instead of feet.
- Wheelers in the Land of Oz have wheels instead of hands and feet and locomote by rolling around on them.
- In David Brin's Uplift series g'Keks have bone wheels driven by natural magnets. As they reside on a low technology Lost Colony with almost no infrastructure, the g'Kek suffer from premature axle and wheel damage due to there being no real roads to speak of.
- The Lensman series book Galactic Patrol. The inhabitants of Aldebaran I are the Wheelmen, who are literally wheel-shaped aliens, like a living example of Monowheel Mayhem. As you might expect, they move by rolling around like wheels. They also encounter a non-sentient wheel-shaped alien in one of the earlier novels which apparently doesn't have the ability to turn unless it's physically moved; it just keeps rolling in a continuous circle around the entire planet.
- The cover art for The Science of Discworld III shows men riding on a giant tortoise with wheels in place of its feet. This was probably created by the God of Evolution, who'd been working on a wheeled elephant when he'd previously appeared in The Last Continent.
- One of the smaller lifeforms from Fragment are wheel-shaped creatures with many forked appendages that protrude from a slot in the edge of the wheel. They roll on their edges, extending their forks to adjust speed or direction.
- In Strata, paleontologists have named one of the alien Precursors believed to have engineered aspects of the universe "Wheelers", as they apparently had dome-shaped bodies that rolled on three wheels.
- An aquatic example: the Drambon Rollers (classification CLHG) are a toroidal species that literally cannot stop moving or they die, as their circulatory system is powered by the rolling motion.
- In The Long Cosmos, Joshua disturbs a nest of starfish-like burrowing creatures while hiking on an alien planet halfway to the galactic core. The smaller ones cluster on the back of the large one, which folds its arms around them protectively and then rolls away. (It's unclear if this is their normal mode of locomotion, or one specifically used when an adult's appendages are otherwise engaged in shielding its young.)
- The Flumpers from Bill Peet's No Such Things are snakes that coil up into a tire shape and roll.
- Lexx: Cluster lizards have long flat segmented bodies and roll into hoops that can roll rapidly. They're also predators, so you don't want to get in their way. When Zev/Xev accidentally acquires Cluster lizard DNA she also acquires the ability to curl up and roll fast, though it's not demonstrated until season 3.
Myths & Religion
- The mythical "hoop snake" of folklore moves by holding its tail in its mouth and rolling like a wheel.
- Dungeons & Dragons: When it needs to travel for any extensive distance, an amphisbaena will grasp one of its necks with the opposite mouth, stiffen itself into a circle, and roll like a hoop.
- BIONICLE, before it became its own theme, offered some weird machine-animal mixes under the LEGO Technic logo: the Tarakava and Tarakava Nui lizards, Muaka tiger, Kane-Ra bull, Kuma Nui rat, Manas and Mana-Ko crabs are all creatures that had tank threads for back legs. What's more peculiar is that in the story, everyone regarded these as having honest-to-goodness legs.
- Trebhum from The Eternal Cylinder are usually bipedal, but they can curl up into a ball to roll at top speed. There is also an enemy called the Tonglegrop that possesses an acid sac that it can use as a wheel to move faster.
- The Legend of Zelda: The Gorons primarily move by rolling. While they can walk, their stubby legs and extremely top heavy stature make them so slow they can be outrun by a small human child. However, in ball form they can roll fast enough to match a half-grown young horse.
- Pikmin 2: The Waterwraith usually moves around on stone rollers which it uses to crush your Pikmin, making it an extremely dangerous enemy. It is capable of walking normally on its back legs like a person if its rollers are destroyed.
- The characters of Marble Knights all have no legs, instead possessing a magical rolling orb as a lower body.
- In StarCraft II, banelings execute this trope with an upgrade (which increases their speed).
- Stellaris includes these as flavor text — the "Alien Specimen Procurement' quest chain involves capturing specimens of Uddlorans, described as small furry animals that can wrap themselves into tight balls and roll at up to 80 kilometre per hour across the snow fields of their home planet.
- Sonic the Hedgehog: Sonic and many of his friends have the ability to curl up into a ball and roll along the ground at high speed. Sometimes they can even "rev up" in place to dash forward with a tremendous burst of speed. Tails the fox instead flies around by rotating his twin tails like helicopter blades.
- Polinices: The Rotigrada, also called the Sea Wheels, are ringlike organisms that move by rotating themselves along the seafloor like wheels. Each "segment" of a Sea Wheel is a semi-independent zooid with its own pair of millipede-like legs, mouth, and stomach — the zooid that is closest to prey when the Sea Wheel rolls after it is the one that gets to swallow the prey.
- SCP Foundation: SCP-2086, a type of giant predatory arthropod that mimics public transportation, curls its legs into "wheels" to roll on. This lets it maintain the illusion of being a bus, the better to trick potential victims into boarding.
- Serina: Cartwheels are a species of simiagibs — tribbets adapted for monkey-like arboreal lifestyles — that use their clade's distinctive "fractal" limbs and tail, formed by fingers fused into two sub-limbs each before separating again at the tips, to move through the trees by rolling underneath branches. They do this by grasping a branch with their right pair of hands, swinging their tail hands up to grasp it as well, let go of their hands' hold and allow themselves to hang upside down, and swing their left hands up to grasp back at the branch before righting themselves and repeating the cycle. They can move extremely quickly in this manner, grasping and releasing branches several times per second, using gravity to speed up further when fleeing from predators, and on the ground use a variant of their arboreal gait where they essentially roll along like living wheels.
- Ben 10: Ben's Kineceleran form XLR8 has small black wheels on both feet. His Petarola form as Cannonbolt can curl into an armored sphere and roll at high speed.
- Samurai Jack: One of the gladiator champions from "Jack and the Smackback", Torto, can curl into a sphere and roll at opponents.
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: The Lurmen, seen in "Jeid Crash" and "Defenders of Peace", curl into balls and roll along like wheels rather than run when they want to go fast.
- 3-2-1 Penguins!: The Wait-Your-Turners (aliens that look like old fashioned electrolux vacuum cleaners) move around via rolling around on their four wheels.
- Teen Titans Go!: Starfire's pet larva Silky occasionally curls up and rolls along the floor.
- Batman: The Animated Series: Clayface turns into a giant rolling ball in an attempt to crush Batman during his Origin Story, and repeatedly during his Boss Battle from Batman: Arkham City.
- Lilo & Stitch: While Stitch has legs, and normally walks, runs, or climbs, he can also curl himself into a ball and roll around with surprising speed. His "cousin" Richter (Experiment 513) can also do so as seen in Lilo & Stitch: The Series.
- Futurama: One oddball alien, briefly seen at a health club, has a round green body with stubby legs all around its circumference. It runs on the gym's treadmill by rolling steadily forward.
- Pangolins do this by curling up into a ball.
- One tiny species of frog, native to high mountain rock faces, braces its limbs and lets go of the cliff to roll to safety when threatened by a predator. It weighs so little that it seldom gets hurt as it tumbles down slopes.
- Gymnastics such as cartwheels or floor-level somersaults are humans' method of invoking this trope.
- There are also spiders in the desert that fold their legs and cartwheel away when threatened.
- In The Condemned Legionnaires, Supergirl and the Legion of Super-Heroes meet one alien species whose large limbless bodies are completely spherical. They move around and attack by rolling and bouncing.
- The Dufflepuds in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader are one-legged creatures inspired by the Skiapods from Classical Mythology.
- In Wayne Barlowe's Expedition, several species hop around on one leg.
- The Future Is Wild has the Desert Hopper, a rabbit-sized snail that hops around on a single foot instead of crawling slowly on the ground.
- In Alan Dean Foster's Quofum, one unnamed race depicted in carvings throughout a ruined city looked like clusters of soft spheres, and bounced along the ground.
- Hoppers in the Land of Oz are one-legged people who hop around.
- Fengshen Yanyi, Longxuhu is a chimeric monster who moves around hopping on a single, powerful tiger's leg. Much later, Tongtian Jiaozhu shows up riding the Kuiniu, a beast depicted as a giant, monstrous bull with scales with a single clawed leg as his only limb.
Myths & Religion
- The Skiapods from Classical Mythology have one giant foot at the center of their bodies, so they move about with tremendous jumps.
- Artwork depicting the pre-Fall Garden of Eden sometimes includes images of a snake balancing or hopping on the tip of its tail, on the grounds that it shouldn't crawl on its belly until after it tempts Eve.
- The rubberado, a tongue-in-cheek cryptid from the tall tales of 19th century American lumberjacks, is a porcupine with rubbery spines and flesh. It bounces around the landscape like a rubber ball, and anyone who eats rubberado meat will bounce around the same way for a few days.
- Sukiya Podes in Puyo Puyo series is based on the one-footed Skiapods — his name is just a Japanization then re-Romanization of Skiapods, to boot.
- So is Munch, the last surviving Gabbit in Munch's Oddysee.
- The Pokémon Spoink is a pig-like creature with no hind legs. It moves by bouncing on its large spring tail. Said bouncing also causes it's heart to pump, so it will die if it stops moving.
- The elastospondyls from Alien Biospheres have an internal shell that allows them to catapult themselves to catch prey.
- Tigger from the Winnie the Pooh stories is depicted bouncing around on his spring-like tail in cartoon adaptations. This probably comes from the original stories, in which Milne's son misunderstood tigers "pouncing" on their prey as "bouncing".
- Lowly Worm, from Busytown, stands upright on one shoe. In animated adaptations, his boneless body contorts in several ways to move about, depending on circumstances and the artists' preferences: sending ripples down his length, coiling up to bounce like a spring, or folding bow- or zigzag-fashion and then extending to launch himself into the air.
- In one episode of Futurama, Earth goes to war against an alien race that are basically intelligent basketballs. Naturally, they mostly get around by bouncing.
- Lilo & Stitch franchise:
- In the South Park episode "Medicinal Fried Chicken", Randy Marsh intentionally gives himself testicular cancer to get a prescription for medical marijuana, and his balls swell up to the point where he can only move around by bouncing on them.
- Springtails, tiny close relatives of insects, have a long springy appendage under their bellies, which they can release to hurl themselves into the air and escape from predators.
- Scallops "hop" along the seabed by clapping their shells shut with powerful closure-muscles, causing spurts of water to jet-propel them for short distances.
- Humans are capable of hopping on one foot over short distances. Also, using a pogo stick or a similar device invokes this.
- Shaar Q from Superboy and the Ravers uses what appears to be her largest tentacle, but might be a serpentine body analogue, to slither along while holding her head casing, three masses of smaller tentacles and siphons up. Presumably her siphons allow her to use jet propulsion in liquid like a squid or octopus though she's never given a chance to show off as her preeminent ability that affects the story is her ability to plane shift either in whole or with just the tips from two of her tentacle groupings.
- Snow dragons of Frigia in the old Flash Gordon comics would snowboard rapidly down slopes by standing on their own broad, flat tails.
Films - Animated
- One strange little Halloweentown demon from The Nightmare Before Christmas walks around on the tips of its very long, bat-like wings, its plump, stubby-limbed body not touching the ground.
Films - Live-Action
- Star Wars:
- Kitonaks move by extending and contracting their toes. It's very slow, but then again Kitonaks are never in a hurry.
- The Dugs walk on their hands, while using their feet for manipulation.
- At one point in John Carpenter's The Thing (1982), a piece of the alien uses an elongated tongue to drag itself along the floor.
- The aliens in Edge of Tomorrow move in a manner that involves whirling their body in a corkscrew-like motion while whipping limbs in every direction.
- The six-headed shark from a late entry in the #-Headed Shark Attack B-movies used the four heads sprouting from its sides like crude limbs, planting each head's pointed rostrum in the sand in turn, to drag its bulk along the beach.
- More from Alan Dean Foster's Humanx Commonwealth Verse:
- The Tran are a race of ice world natives with claws on their feet that act as natural ice skates, and sails beneath their arms that let them catch the wind for propulsion. The stavanzer, a gargantuan herbivore from the same icy planet, slides on its belly like a slug, propelled by blasting air out its twin posterior vents and dragging itself forward with two colossal ice-gripping tusks.
- The quadrupedal spikers from Quofum have legs that twirl around in circles, moving up and over their hips between steps, rather than swing forward and back.
- Having no legs, the titular mermaid from The Singing Mermaid escapes from the circus after the acrobat teaches her how to handstand. She then walks back to the ocean on her hands.
- Night stalkers from the future-evolution book After Man: A Zoology of the Future walk bipedally on their forelimbs, while fighting with the long claws on hindlimbs that reach forward. Justified in that they evolved from bats that became flightless due to isolation on an island chain, so their forelimbs were the only ones strong enough to walk on.
- The Rhinogrades from the mockumentary ''The Snouters: Form and Life of the Rhinogrades'' are a group of fictitious mammals, some of which walk on their multiple nasal trunks.
- Wayne Barlowe's Expedition features numerous bizarre examples of locomotion.
- The Flipstick is a 60-meter long pole-like creature that moves by flipping itself on both ends.
- The Gyrosprinter is a two-legged animal with one leg in the front and the other in the back (not unlike the Dominic example above). It supposedly evolved from a four-legged ancestor, such that both of its front legs and back legs fused together. It solves the balance issues by developing two balancing organs (similar to the inner ear) on the sides of its body.
- Another creature starts out with four legs when young, but the hind legs atrophy as it matures and its hind skid develops.
- The Future Is Wild has the Megasquid, a terrestrial squid that moves around on eight modified pillar-like tentacles (Which have no bones like an elephant's trunk). It moves with a gait not used by any living animal today: moving its first and fourth legs on one side in unison with the second and third legs on the other side.
- In Robert A. Heinlein's The Star Beast, the eponymous Lummox is an eight legged space dinosaur. It normally moved in a 1,4,5,8,2,3,6,7 gait, good for anything from a slow crawl to as fast as a trotting horse. However, if in a hurry, s/he could move in a double-ended gallop moving legs 1 & 2 & 5 & 6 together, alternated with 3 & 4 & 7 & 8.
- The gukuy and owoc from Mother of Demons have two parallel 'rails' which operate much like a snail's foot. They're faster than you might expect, though humans are faster and can get through rougher terrain.
- The Skeezaboos from Bill Peet's No Such Things have horns so long that they can and do use them as skis.
- The three-legged biots in Rendezvous with Rama revolve as they walk.
- As do the three-legged Jan in Alien in a Small Town, though the Jan are also subterranean burrowers.
- On an extraterrestrial life-themed episode of Into The Universe With Stephen Hawking, one of the hypothetical creatures shown is an herbivore with two clawed legs and a huge suction-cup mouth. Using the latter as a temporary anchor, it could walk up and down vertical cliff faces.
- One hypothetical desert creature from the "Alien Faces" episode of The Universe had pillar-like legs anchored to a flat, scaly base that could slowly glide over sand.
Myths & Religion
- A strange mythical creature in North American folklore was the Sidehill Gouger, a mountain-dwelling creature that resembled a wild boar save for the fact that the legs on one side were much longer than the other two, allowing it to walk on steep hillsides. However, they are unable to turn, and spend their whole lives rotating the mountain in a single direction. Should two opposing Gougers meet, they must fight until one falls off.
- The Dahu of Alpine legends is very much the same as the Sidehill Gouger, although it looks more like a goat.
- The Wild Haggis of Scotland is another fictional creature with similar legs.
- Dungeons & Dragons:
- The 3rd party D&D supplement Into the Black describes a number of exotic cavern-dwelling critters, one of which — the ice rat — traverses glacial cavern floors by rolling around in snow until its thick fur is sheathed in ice, with gaps for its head, paws, and rudder-shaped tail. Encased by this form-fitted one-rat toboggan, it slides along incredibly fast, controlling its speed and direction with tail and dragging claws.
- The whitespawn iceskidder, one of many strange dragonspawn introduced to Dungeons and Dragons via the intervention of Tiamat, speed across ice with the elongated skating-claws on their hind feet and twin stabilizing blades alongside the base of the tail.
- Oddworld practically breathes this trope, with several species (Sligs, Glukkons, Gloktigi, etc.) walking on their hands, and that's only scratching the surface.
- Mandarins in Silent Hill 2 dangle and brachiate beneath chain-link floors of the Otherworld, using the circular maws on their arms to maintain their grip.
- One of the species in Unicorn Jelly and spinoffs has a tube-shaped body with a foot at each end, and they ambulate by placing one foot on the ground and then arching over to place the other one, etc. Leeches crawl and climb in a similar fashion in Real Life.
- It's never really specified what form of locomotion Carbosilicate Amorphs of Schlock Mercenary use, but one comment often aimed at one member of the species, Sergeant Schlock is "you're faster than you look".
- As a fictional human example, South Park introduced a form of locomotion that involves sitting on your naked butt with your legs in the air while dragging yourself along with your hands. It's called "Taylor Swifting" for some reason, and it becomes a youth fad akin to planking.
- Scooby-Doo has been known to move in fairly bizarre ways while sneaking around, from extending all four legs straight to the sides and toe-walking to pushing his huddled body forward with inchworm-like movements of his tail.
- Real Life example: Sidewinders are desert snakes that crawl rapidly across the sand by throwing loops of their own bodies ahead of themselves.
- Snakes in general have very specialized ribs with a muscular hinge attached to each one, allowing them to move each rib independently and "walk" like a centipede's legs.
- Yet another Real Life example: humans, as far as other mammals are concerned. The majority of mammals are quadrupedal, but bipedalism only evolved a few times in different groups: kangaroos, a few rodent groups (such as gerbils and kangaroo rats), pangolins, bears, and a couple of primate species. Most of these are really only able to hop, or can only walk for a short bit before reverting to all fours again. Only humans can walk on two legs as their main form of locomotion. Doing so with a vertical spine also makes us radically different from Earth's most numerous bipedal walkers, birds.
- Skipping is an even weirder variant on humans' already-strange means of walking.
- Human infants sometimes find absurd ways of moving before they can walk, such as butt scooting, bunny hopping, leg shuffling, and even back-crawling.
- Sideshow performers Johnny Eck (born with a truncated torso and useless vestigial legs small enough to hide under his clothes) and Prince Randian (born with no limbs at all) moved like this by necessity: Eck by walking on his hands, and Randian by wiggling along like a caterpillar. They were both immortalised in the movie Freaks.
- Dominic, a greyhound that lost both right legs when he was hit by a car, manages to stand, walk, run and even jump on his two left legs, an arrangement never seen in nature.
- James Herriot describes a case very similar to Dominic; a dog that got one leg paralysed and the other on the same side broken and refusing to heal. Still worked as a perfectly fine shepherd dog.
- Many primates move around in trees by swinging (called "brachiation" in zoological Techno Babble), but a group of apes known as gibbons are the fastest brachiators, travelling at up to 55 km/h through treetops. Speaking of apes, orangutans are similarly adapted to living in trees, and their arms are so long that the orangutans sometimes use them like crutches when they have to move about on the ground.
- Walruses on shore or icebergs sometimes use their tusks like pitons to help drag their massive bodies along.
- Superman storyline The Untold Story of Argo City has Zygors, an alien species who travel through the void of space by organic jet propulsion thanks to their tentacles.
Films — Animated
- Dumbo: Dumbo the elephant can fly using his oversized ears like wings.
Films — Live-Action
- The Dark Crystal: Some small pillar-shaped organisms in the swamps fly straight upward with propellers.
- Gamera: Gamera propels himself through the air by spinning like a Frisbee.
- Godzilla: Godzilla is sometimes seen propelling himself using his nuclear breath to chase Hedorah, though the physics behind it is murky at best, and he never did so again.
- Alan Dean Foster likes this trope. His two novels set on Midworld include many alien animals that drift in the air with helium bladders, while in Quofum there's mention of spiral-winged critters that corkscrew through the air. Squirks — tiny swamp reptiles from the Spellsinger series — use four rotating props to hover like helicopters.
- Jetdarters and skewers use jet propulsion. The former are bug-sized, the latter are... jets.
- Eosapiens, the most advanced life form on Darvin IV, are able to hover using large bags of methane gas. In Alien Planet, they are the last life forms encountered by Ike the probe.
- Cluster: One race uses jet propulsion.
- Discworld: In Guards! Guards!, Errol the swamp dragon manages to reverse the direction his flame comes out from, turning his guts into a chemical rocket and flying by jet propulsion. The lunar dragons from The Last Hero use it as their normal mode of propulsion.
- After Man: A Zoology of the Future: The juvenile parashrew grows a parachute made of hair on the tip of its tail, and uses this to catch the mountain winds, dispersing over distances such a tiny animal couldn't otherwise traverse. The parachute-hairs fall out once it finds a territory of its own.
- The Starchild Trilogy:
- The "Spacelings" are friendly, tameable animals which live among the reefs of space, between the stars. They appear to move via a reactionless drive of some sort—figuring out how they fly is one of Steve Ryland's goals in The Reefs of Space.
- Pyropods (Latin for "flamefoot") are living rockets, which also live in the reefs. Their need for reaction mass means they have evolved to be vicious and deadly hunters. Even a baby is enough to take on several humans, and a small pack of adults can destroy and devour a ship!
- Rocket Age: The skies of Jupiter are already home to floating gas bags, but a better example is probably the Eagle Snake. Eagle Snakes are metre long, lamprey mouthed creatures that use three gas bags on their ventral side to control their elevation and propel themselves, while using the ridge of thin flesh to squirm through the air.
- BIONICLE: Keelerak spiders can fly by spinning in the air like a Frisbee, using their pointy feet to become giant buzzsaws. There are also shore turtles, which are simple turtles, that can, for whatever reason, fly. Though it's never explained how — they don't have wings or thrusters.
- The inhabitants of Forte (Faulte in Japan) move about by leaping high into the air and using their parachute-like bodies to slowly descend.
- Planet Bavoom seems to be a gas giant, so the creatures on it just drift around the planet's powerful winds.
- Uru: Ages Beyond Myst: One of the Ages has disc-shaped creatures that spring up into the air and drift down like parachutes, similar to the Forte creatures listed above.
- Pikmin 2:
- The Careening Dirigibug from flies via inflatable sacs that resemble party balloons.
- The Snitchbugs used to have normal wings, but lost them during their evolution. Instead their antenna now serve as their wings.
- Monster Hunter Generations Ultimate: While Valstrax is a faily standard quadruped on the ground, its method of flight is bizarre: it draws in air through an orifice on its chest, compresses it with Dragon energy, then ejects the mixture from its wings as it ignites to propel itself. That's right — it's a living jet engine. The wings themselves also have bizarre flexibility for biological limbs, being able to stretch a surprising distance to stab at prey, or completely flip with the vents pointing forwards so Valstrax can use blasts of Dragon energy as an attack.
- Battle for Terra: The aliens can fly and use their tails in a fashion similar to how fish use their tails to swim underwater.
- The Fairyfly is the smallest known flying insect, measuring less than half the size of a grain of salt. At this size, air itself has a semi-viscous, syrup-like quality, meaning fairyflies don't so much fly as they do swim/pull their way forward with their oddly shaped wings◊.
- In After Man: A Zoology of the Future, a tiny mammal walks on water like a water strider, using long hairs on its feet to distribute its few grams of weight over the water's surface.
- In The Future Is Wild, the ocean phantom is a colonial jellyfish-relative that drifts on the surface, using tall flaps of tissue to catch the wind and sail from place to place.
- In Small Favor, Dierdre forms her animated blade-hair into a shark-like tail for swimming with when she dives into Lake Michigan.
- In Terry Pratchett's Nation, a footnote describes how the sailfin crocodile (Crocodylus porosus maritimus) travels immense distances at the surface of the Great Southern Pelagic Ocean using the movable skin-and-cartilage sail on its back to catch the wind.
- Some of the fish from Dr. Seuss' book McElligot's Pool. There are fish with built-in sails or propellers. One fish can ski down underwater slopes. There are even fish who jump off steep waterfalls and parachute down to the river below.
- The Dufflepuds from The Voyage of the Dawn Treader, although forced to bounce on one foot on land (see above), discover that their huge single feet, properly shod in kayak-sized footwear, can be used like canoes. As Dawn Treader sets sail, a crowd of cheering Dufflepuds stand afloat on the water's surface and, paddling like mad, circle the ship in farewell.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Voyager. The space creatures in "Elogium" propel themselves via flagellation, essentially whipping their tails back and forth as a means of moving forward.
- One hypothetical alien creature from Through The Wormhole With Morgan Freeman had a tubular body and vane-shaped fins that propelled it through water by rotating like a drill.
- Hamster's Paradise: The cricetaceans are a family of marine rodents that resemble Earth's whales and dolphins and as such, appear to propel themselves forward with a fluked tail. However, they evolved from the seal-like bayvers which lacked a tail and swam using their flippers, which means that the cricetaceans' fluke is actually a pair of highly modified immoblie hind legs and they swim by ungulating their elongated spines.
- Sunspot, Jet's alien pet from Ready Jet Go!, moves himself underwater by whirling his striped tail like a propeller.
- The Portugese Man O' War is a jellyfish-like colony of microscopic organisms. The main "body" consists of an air-filled balloon that sits on the water's surface and has a flat section on top that it can extend to act as a sail.
- Squid and octopuses can use jet propulsion, squirting water out their siphons to quickly move forward. Some have even been seen jetting out of the water.
- The stream gobies of Hawaii are small fishes that, while they swim normally, also ascend waterfalls to reach their breeding pools. They cling to the rocks behind the falling water with their mouths and a set of modified pelvic fins that form a suction-cup disc.
- A minority theory for why some pterosaurs sported such broad head-crests is that they could use them as sails while sitting on the surface of the water, drifting along without expending any muscular effort.
- The remora uses a suction cup on the top of its head to hitch rides on sharks and other large sea creatures rather than swimming on its own.
- The ocean sunfish, or mola mola, loses its true tail early in development, and grows a unique pseudo-tail - the clavus - from its dorsal and anal fins for an alternate rudder.
- Scavenging tideline snails can "ride" the surf by spreading their foot like an underwater sail.
- The fish-creature from The Host (2006) traverses the undersides of bridges above the Han River by doing back flips, alternately gripping with its two legs and its prehensile tail.
- H. P. Lovecraft's Elder Things from At the Mountains of Madness could somehow travel through outer space using their fan-shaped wings. The original text depicts them flying through the aether, but Fanon insists that their wings are biological solar sails.
- In Ghost Story, wraiths that aren't under the direct control of a more powerful entity are described as drifting ethereally through Chicago's ghost-realm, just barely out of contact with the ground, occasionally touching down with their toes to push themselves along. When commanded, they fly freely, suggesting that it's simply their lack of individual willpower that hinders their independent motion.
- In the Animorphs prequel The Andalite Chronicles, Visser Thirty-five (later Three) has a pair of weird pets that move on wheels—until their upper bodies detach so that they can attack on wings.
- In Quofum, a small burrowing creature has a fleshy slot on its back, in which it grips and rotates a hard conical crystal, drilling its way through the soil.
- In "The Hounds of Tindalos" by Frank Belknap Long, the titular Hounds of Tindalos are strange, angular creatures who existed long before single-celled organisms first evolved. They are normally invisible as they inhabit the "angles of time" as opposed to the "curves of time" that humans and other life-forms do. Thus, they can freely travel through time as well as materialize through any corner of a wall or object if it's sharp enough (120 degrees or less). Thus, the only way to avoid getting hunted and eaten by one is to stay in a room with no angles... forever.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Voyager. In "Basics" a cave-lizard has four limbs spaced around its circumference, so it can pull itself along the cave roof as well as the ground.
- The Horta in Star Trek: The Original Series are silicon-based organism and they move around actually melting the stone with the acid of their bodies. Spock describes it as "moving through rocks as we move through air".
- Globin is a planet-sized living thing; it has an intelligent, sentient civilization comprised of leukocytes traveling around Globin's bloodstream.
- The people of Wiral are made of electricity. They normally just float about but prefer to do high-speed travel through electric wires.
- Oddworld: Fleeches in Oddworld: Abe's Exoddus are worm-like creatures who move like regular real life worms, but they can use their Multipurpose Tongue as a grappling hook to navigate their environment.
- The snuffalo are a species of large, flightless birds that walk tripedally, using their huge bills as a third leg. They rest its blunt tip on the ground when at rest in order to support their massive heads, and when walking they press it down in front of themselves and then use their huge neck muscles to pull themselves towards the spot where it's planted.
- The antlears' most distinctive traits are their pronged, keratinized ears, first used to grasp tree branches. These become jointed and enlarged in later species, and the burrowing antlears eventually develop them into a full set of walking limbs. These ear legs start out mainly as a supplementary support in the first burrowing antlear species, but become much more well-developed in their scorplear descendants.
- Whereas most burrowing mammals claw or push their way through the soil, mole rats create their tunnels by scraping away at hard-packed dirt with their enormous buck teeth.