Snakes don't need planes to take off.
Video footage and a new mathematical model explain how five snake species achieve gliding flight.
The snakes stay in the air for up to 79 feet because the upward component of the aerodynamic force is greater than the snake's weight.
Future studies on the snakes and other animal gliders could lead to more energy-efficient flying vehicles.
The worst nightmare of ophidiophobes, people with a phobia of snakes, may have just been realized. Scientists have captured footage of "flying" snakes, explaining how five related snake species stay airborne for up to 79 feet.
The acrobatic arboreal snakes, all in the genus Chrysopelea, use what's known as gliding flight to sail from tree to tree in their Southeast and South Asia habitats.
The new research, presented today at the American Physical Society Division of Fluid Dynamics meeting in Long Beach, explains how the snakes accomplish their seemingly improbable feat.
"The snake isn't defying gravity or doing something out of the blue," project leader Jake Socha told Discovery News. "It's the magnitude of the forces that are somewhat surprising. Given that this is a snake, and its cross-sectional body shape is more like a blunt shape than a typical streamlined wing, we wouldn't have expected such good aerodynamic performance."