Perhaps the most feared creature throughout the ages is the snake. And now one iteration of the limbless species is gaining notoriety for its unique ability to do something somehow even more terrifying than slinking around on its belly: flying.
According to the American Association for the Advancement of Science, the (ironically named) Paradise Tree Snake can “climb and jump from trees, flatten [its] body, and undulate in a complex three-dimensional pattern to produce aerial locomotion.”
Virginia Tech researchers are currently studying the “biomechanics of snake flight and the role aerial undulation plays” in it. Flying snakes slither down tree limbs and spread out their ribcages as they glide “downward at a shallow angle, able to cover significant horizontal distance.”
“Even more surprisingly, the snake can actively maneuver in the air, with turns of 90 degrees that can occur in the space of a meter.”
How exactly is this nightmare come to life achieved? “[T]he snake sends high-amplitude traveling waves down the body, effectively making the snake into a tandem or triple wing, where the front and rear segments can be aerodynamically coupled.”
However, “it is unknown how the snake produces a stable forward gliding motion, and yet is also highly agile, capable of active maneuvering.”