Speaking of gliding… new research out of Virginia Tech has looked at the dynamics of gliding reptiles and flying snakes!
The work, presented at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics (DFD) meeting held last week focused on five related species of tree-dwelling snakes found in South and Southeast Asia.
The snakes can “fly” by flinging themselves off their tree-top perches and gliding to another tree or to the ground.
The researchers looked at Chrysopelea paradisi and recorded their gliding patterns on camera after the snakes launched themselves off a branch at the top of a 15-meter tower. These recordings allowed the researchers to create and analyze 3-D reconstructions for the animals’ gliding patterns during the flight.
The results show that, despite travelling up to 24 meters from their starting point, they never reached an “equilibrium gliding” state, but neither did they simply plummet to the ground.
Jake Socha from Virginia Tech described it as: “the snake is pushed upward—even though it is moving downward—because the upward component of the aerodynamic force is greater than the snake’s weight.”
“Hypothetically, this means that if the snake continued on like this, it would eventually be moving upward in the air—quite an impressive feat for a snake,” he says. But the modeling suggests that the effect is only temporary, and eventually “the snake hits the ground to end the glide.”
So, despite looking like the creature least likely to “fly,” C. paradisi seems to have taken a leaf out of Allan’s book and realized “you can do it.”
(And if you’d like, you can check out the paper abstract here.)