Flying snakes get lift from surrounding air vortices

Vortices, or whirls of wind, around the flattened body of a paradise flying snake (shown) give it extra lift as it undulates through the air.

 Jake Socha

When the flying snake Chrysopelea paradisi leaps into and glides through the air, it’s getting lift from small, swirling vortices in the air around it. The snake’s shape in the air, which is more flattened than when it is at rest, takes advantage of the vortices and gets a significant boost in lift at a leap angle of about 35 degrees, simulations show.

The results, reported March 4 in Physics of Fluids, support earlier experimental data showing how the snakes fly.

Ashley Yeager is the associate news editor at Science News. She has worked at The Scientist, the Simons Foundation, Duke University and the W.M. Keck Observatory, and was the web producer for Science News from 2013 to 2015. She has a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, and a master’s degree in science writing from MIT.

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