Snakes no longer need to board an aircraft as in the cult movie Snakes on a Plane to take to the skies – for scientists have shown that some of them can actually FLY.
Boffins observed the serpents stretching and flattening out their bodies, allowing them to “slither” through the air in an Asian rainforest.
By adopting an S-shape, some aerodynamic asps were even able to glide 100 feet from tall trees.
Study leader Dr Jake Socha, from Virginia Tech Wake Forest University in the US, said: “They look like they are swimming.
“They turn their whole body into one aerodynamic surface.”
Dr Socha’s team of researchers found that flying snakes flex their ribs to stretch and flatten out their bodies.
Looked at in cross section, they turn from a circle to an arched semi-circle.
“It looks like someone’s version of a UFO,” Dr Socha added.
Using a 3D printer, the scientists produced a rod with the same profile as a gliding snake’s body and placed it in a tank of flowing water.
Although water is much more dense than air, the experiment recreated the effect of air flowing over a snake’s body.
At most angles, the unusual body shape generated sufficient lift to keep the creature aloft.
However, the results published in The Journal of Experimental Biology do not fully account for the performance of flying snakes.
“If you make a rough estimate of the lift to drag ratio for the real animal, it appears to do better than what we got from this study,” said Dr Socha.
“So even though this shape produced more lift than we were expecting, it doesn’t get us the glide performance that snakes can attain, giving us a hint that there is something in what the animal is doing aerodynamically that is not captured by the cross-sectional shape alone.”