Some Snakes Fly Through the Air With the Greatest of Ease

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Flying Snakes Need to Wriggle Through the Air to Glide

by Theresa Machemer/Smithsonianmag.com

Snakes are well known for their sneaky slithering, but five species are prone to literal flights of fancy. Flying snakes, like the paradise tree snake, get around by launching themselves from treetops and gliding to branches dozens of feet away. While aloft, they wriggle and twist in a sidewinder-like squiggle that begs the question: is that really necessary?

It turns out that yes, it is, according to new research published on June 29 in the journal Nature Physics. Using high-speed photography and a computer model of snakes in flight, researchers at Virginia Tech found that if the snakes didn’t wiggle, they wouldn’t be stable in the air. It takes a combination of side-to-side and vertical motions, along with the snake flattening its body into a triangular, instead of round, shape for a snake to catch enough air to reach its destination.

Or in less scientific terms, flying snakes sort of resemble a “big, wiggly, ribbon thing,” as Virginia Tech biomechanics researcher and co-author Jake Socha describes for the New York Times David Waldstein.

Socha has been studying flying snakes for almost 25 years. But until now, the reason for the snakes’ mid-air movements was a mystery.

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Biography
Carol graduated from Riverside White Cross School of Nursing in Columbus, Ohio and received her diploma as a registered nurse. She attended Bowling Green State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts Degree in History and Literature. She attended the University of Toledo, College of Nursing, and received a Master’s of Nursing Science Degree as an Educator.

She has traveled extensively, is a photographer, and writes on medical issues. Carol has three children RJ, Katherine, and Stephen – two daughters-in-law; Suzy and Katie – two granddaughters; Isabella Marianna and Zoe Olivia – and one grandson, Alexander Paul. She also shares her life with husband Gordon Duff, many cats, and two rescue pups.

Carol’s Archives 2009-2013
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2 COMMENTS

  1. Yes they land on your army duece and a half in SE Asia , from the trees above , and slither into the open cab of the truck , and wrap themselves around the manual lever that controls the windshield wipers – and freaks you out, when you finally see them – eye to eye. True story