Animal IQ

This Is Not A Drill: There's Such A Thing As Flying Snakes

Your list of greatest fears might include spiders, heights, or maybe even public speaking. If it also includes snakes, you may want to look away from this next part: some snakes can fly. In the jungles of South And Southeast Asia, snakes of the genus Chrysopelea contort their bodies in the presence of strong updrafts to glide through the air.

Related: Don't Panic, But Snakes Still Have The Gene To Grow Legs

Snakes On A Plane?

Researchers first thought that "flying" snakes glided like paragliders, but they actually have a more advanced process. National Geographic reports that a snake will slither to the end of a tree branch, then dangle its body in a J shape. Then instead of simply plummeting, it "propels itself from the branch with the lower half of its body, forms quickly into an S, and flattens to about twice its normal width, giving its normally round body a concave C shape, which can trap air." To move around, a snake will undulate its body back and forth. Amazing...but also terrifying.

Related: Flatulence As Snake Self-Defense

Move Over, Flying Squirrels

Flying snakes are such experts at piloting through the sky that they're considered better gliders than flying squirrels. While these new findings are exciting, researchers would love to learn more in future studies regarding the flying snake's control of force during takeoff, sliding, and landing. They also hope to identify the musculoskeletal adaptations that allow for their unique way of getting around.

Related: Animals Can Be Born With Two Heads

If you're currently having heart palpitations, we have good news: although the five recognized species of flying snake are mildly venomous, their tiny fangs are harmless to humans. Phew!

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Written by Curiosity Staff March 28, 2017

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