Tuesday, November 23, 2010

When snakes fly

The worst nightmare of ophidiophobes—people with a phobia of snakes—may have just been realized. Scientists have captured footage of “flying” snakes, explaining how five related snake species stay airborne for up to 79 feet. The acrobatic arboreal snakes, all in the genus Chrysopelea, use what's known as gliding flight to sail from tree to tree in their Southeast and South Asia habitats.

The new research, presented by the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics, explains how the snakes accomplish their seemingly improbable feat.

“The snake isn’t defying gravity or doing something out of the blue,” project leader Jake Socha told Discovery News. “It's the magnitude of the forces that are somewhat surprising. Given that this is a snake, and its cross-sectional body shape is more like a blunt shape than a typical streamlined wing, we wouldn’t have expected such good aerodynamic performance.”

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