Marc Kaufman - An unusual breed of Asian snakes can glide long distances in the air, and the Department of Defense is funding research at Virginia Tech to find out why.
Most animals that glide do so with fixed wings or a wing-like part. But not the "flying snakes" of Southeast Asia, India and southern China - at least five members of the genus Chrysopelea.
As video of the reptiles show, they undulate from side to side, in almost an air-slithering, to create an aerodynamic system. It allows them to travel from the top of the biggest trees in the region (almost 200 feet high) to a spot about 780 feet away from the tree's trunk.
"Basically . . .they become one long wing," said John Socha, the Virginia Tech researcher who has traveled extensively in Asia to study the snakes and to film them.
"The snake is very active in the air, and you can kind of envision it as having multiple segments that become multiple wings," he said. "The leading edge becomes the trailer and then the trailer become the leading edge."
It gets stranger. During a technique not yet understood, some of the snakes can actually turn in air. What's more, they all take a flying leap off their perch to get airborne, then drop for a while to pick up speed before starting the motion that keeps them aloft much longer than they would otherwise. ...
via DOD tries to uncover secret of flying snakes.