A flying snake is the sort of thing you encounter in dreams after you eat and drink too much. You escape them in your dreams, but they scare the hell out of you, and you wake up in sweaty sheets assured that such a thing can’t really happen in real life. In the case of flying snakes, however, they really can happen in real life.
They don’t really fly – they glide. But, it’s a controlled glide, and they do jump out of trees to get to the ground, where you are. Luckily, none of them is indigenous to Virginia, or even the U.S.
Professor Jake Socha, from Virginia Tech in the US, who carried out the study, said: “The snake is definitely not an intuitive glider. When you look at it, you say: ‘that thing should not be able to glide’. And in its normal body configuration that is probably true.”But when it enters the air, when it takes off and jumps and leaps from a branch, it massively transforms its body.”
Undulating dance: There are five species of flying snake, which all belong to the genus Chrysopelea. Researchers now believe they understand how this snake can glide through the jungle rather than plummet to the ground.The aerodynamic forces are comparable with those generated by a plane’s wingProf Socha said: “As it jumps, it flattens out from just behind the head to where the tail starts. What it is doing is taking its ribs and rotating them forwards toward the head and upwards toward the spine. And this makes it much wider – so it doubles in width – and it forms this unique cross-sectional shape.”
There’s a short video showing one of these creatures “flying” over at BBC News – Secrets of flying snakes revealed.