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Gliding Snakes In Asia

May 6, 2014 | By: Cherleen Manette Aquino       Creature Feature
No, they are not snakes on a plane like that on the movie. They are real flying snakes. But note that they do not have wings. So, how do these snakes fly? 

Researchers revealed that there are five species of snake from the lowland tropical rainforests of South and Southeast Asia that can slide from tree to tree even if they do not have wings. 

Studies disclosed that snakes developed the capability to move from tree to tree because it is easier to glide than slide down from one tree and then climb the next one. The snakes flatten their bodies before flying from one tree to another, or from the tree to the ground, similar to flying squirrels. 

Photo Source: http://www.biotope.fr/en/our-services/biodiversity-conservation

According to Robert Mertens´1968 classification, these snakes belong to the species Chrysopelea ornata, Chrysopelea paradisi, Chrysopelea pelias, Chrysopelea rhodopleuron, and Chrysopelea taprobanica. Adult flying snakes grow from 1-1.2 meters. Chrysopelea ornata is the largest specie while Chrysopelea pelias is the smallest that spans from 60 to 70 cm. 

Though some flying snakes are categorized as gliders, they are technically classified as parachuters; hence, they cannot fly upwards. They can only travel downwards through the air and start at a spot that is higher than the location they are going to. Flying snakes are similar to flying squirrels. 

There are no studies that confirm the reasons why they fly from one tree to another although there are several theories, such as more efficient and faster vertical travel, to escape a predator, or to chase prey. 

However, Jake Socha, scientist from Virginia Tech, said that human beings should not worry as the snakes will not jump from the trees and attack them. Socha writes, “Only if you’re directly below them, and I’ve never heard of this happening. There’s no need to worry about snakes falling out of the skies, even if you live in Southeast Asia.”

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