It's Alive

When snakes fly

A gliding snake gets some lift by spreading its ribs

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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.

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