Video: How do snakes fly?

Posted Feb 6, 2014 by Tim Sandle
Well no snake can fly, and most fall when flung into the air. However, the paradise flying snake sure can glide and it does so through some remarkable properties.
Paradise tree snake or Flying Snake
Paradise tree snake or Flying Snake
Alan Couch
The paradise flying snake glides through the air, over considerable distances. Launching from a 10-meter height, the snake (Chrysopelea species) can typically glide outward 10 meters (the furthest recorded is 21 meters). According to Science News, snake does so by widening and flattening its body. To propel itself through the air, the snake undulates and whips S-curves in the air in a 3-D motion. Thus the combination of sucking in its stomach and making a motion of lateral undulation in the air makes it possible for the snake to glide in the air, where it also manages to save energy compared to travel on the ground.
This is shown in a fascinating video:
The paradise flying snake is found in Southern and Southeast Asia. The paradise glider lives in trees, climbing in easy slithers and jumping off branches when it wishes to cover distances. To jump, the snake anchors its tail on a branch, and the front of the body first drops down and then shoots back up and out headfirst. Flying snakes are mildly venomous and they prey upon lizards, frogs, birds and bats.
To study the snake in more detail, biomechanist Jake Socha of Virginia Tech in Blacksbur has used 3-D printing to create a snake stand-in with the same cross section and tested fluid flowing around it at various speeds and angles. This showed that, at many angles, the chubby shape could generate much of the lift a gliding snake needs. These findings have been published in the Journal of Experimental Biology. The paper is titled “Aerodynamics of the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi: how a bluff body cross-sectional shape contributes to gliding performance”.