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When snakes fly

A gliding snake gets some lift by spreading its ribs

By
6:33pm, January 29, 2014

SNAKES IN THE AIR  A paradise flying snake can leap from a tree and, with lots of wriggling, glide for meters, landing unharmed on the ground or in another tree.

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A snake jumping out a window looks nothing like a paper airplane.

Few snakes do anything but fall, but the paradise flying snake widens and flattens its body as if trying to catch some lift. And instead of holding a straight Superman pose, it undulates and whips S-curves in the air in a 3-D motion people don’t have a word for. “Just watch the video,” says biomechanist Jake Socha of Virginia Tech in Blacksburg.

Launching from a 10-meter height, Chrysopelea paradisi can glide outward 10 meters, and Socha has witnessed a champion glide of 21 meters. It’s the most accomplished aerialist of the five Chrysopelea gliding snake species, all from Southern and Southeast Asia.

The paradise glider lives in trees, climbing in easy slithers and jumping off branches to escape predators, and scientists. It really does jump, Socha says. The snake anchors its tail on a branch, and the front

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