Research at Virginia Tech shows how flying snakes glide through the air

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Scientists have long known about the Paradise Tree Snake, a species that can flatten its body and leap from tree to tree, spending up to 10 minutes in the air at a time. However, until recently, little has been known about how these animals can effortlessly fly through the air.

In controlled experiments, researchers at Virginia Tech have discovered the snakes use combination of movement as they are in the air to stabilize themselves and fly as far as possible.

“Aerial undulation continuously reconfigures the snake’s body, transforming the animal into a morphing wing. Previous studies of snake glides determined that flying snakes always undulate while airborne,” the paper in Nature said. “However, it is unclear if undulation is a functional requirement of gliding, or simply a behavioural remnant of snake locomotion, as all snakes are capable of lateral undulation, an evolutionary ancient motor pattern produced by waves of muscle contraction propagating down the body.”

Next, researchers will turn their attention to how the snakes generate the force needed to lift themselves into the air.

The snakes are not native to the United States and they are harmless to humans.

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