Scientists Solve Mystery of Flying Snakes
TEHRAN (Tasnim) – A new study sheds light on how flying snakes are capable of gliding in the air. The discovery can possibly help in the improvement of robotic technology to make machines glide.
Reptiles with the ability to glide through the air and cling on trees, usually called flying snakes, can be found in rainforests in Southeast Asia. Flying snakes exist in five species which all belong to the genus Chrysopelea.
Professor Jake Socha, lead author of the study from Virginia Tech, told BBC News, "The snake is definitely not an intuitive glider. When you look at it, you say: “That thing should not be able to glide”. And in its normal body configuration that is probably true.
"But when it enters the air, when it takes off and jumps and leaps from a branch, it massively transforms its body." he added.
Scientists have found out how the snake glides through the air in the jungle. When the flying snake jumps, it flattens itself from head to toe by shrinking the size of its ribs. This causes the body to double in width and forms a cross-sectional shape body that is concave.
Researchers analyzed the aerodynamic forces that the altered body could generate by making a plastic copy of the cross-section of the snake's body. This was then placed in a tank of water and observed.
Based on their observations, the snake produces aerodynamic forces similar to those created by a scaled-down plane wing. The researchers believe that a combination of physical transformation with a falling and rising air dance allows the snake to fly through the jungle.
"It is moving its head from side to side, it is passing waves down the body and it looks like the animal is swimming in the air." Socha told the BBC.
The study was published in the Journal of Experimental Biology.