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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.

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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.

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