Have you ever heard that a snake can fly? Chrysopelea is known as a flying snake. It belongs to the family Colubridae. Nature is incredible, and its creations sometimes baffle humans’ minds. Who is the creator of these bewildering species? Flying snakes are not too venomous and are considered harmless. Its toxicity is not dangerous to people.
Normally, flying snakes can be found in South Asian countries such as the Philippines, China, India, and Sri Lanka. Chrysopelea is notorious for “flying snake” glides by using its ridge scales along its belly, pushing against the rough bark surface of tree trunks, and letting it move vertically up a tree. Chrysopelea hunt for food during the day, and they like lizards, frogs, birds, and bats.
When he reaches the end of a tree’s branch, the snake continues moving until its tail dangles from the branch end, and then it makes a J-shape bend and leans forward to select the level of inclination it wishes to travel to control its flight paths as well as the desired landing area.
Once it decides on an endpoint, it pushes itself by thrusting its body up and away from the tree, sucking in its stomach, and flaring out its ribs to turn its body into a “pseudo concave wing,” all the while making a repeated serpentine motion of lateral undulation parallel to the ground to stabilize its direction in midair in order to land safe and sound.
The mixture of sucking in its stomach and making a motion of lateral undulation in the air makes it viable for the snake to glide in the air, where it also copes to keep energy compared to traveling on the ground and dodge terrestrially bound predators. The concave wing that a snake generates in sucking its stomach flattens its body to up to double its width from the back of the head to the anal vent, which is adjacent to the end of the snake’s tail, causing the cross-section of the snake’s body to look like the cross-section of a Frisbee or flying disc.
When a flying disc spins in the air, the designed cross-sectional concavity causes intensified air pressure under the center of the disc, causing lift for the disc to fly. A snake incessantly moves in lateral undulation to generate the identical effect of increased air pressure underneath its arched body to glide.
It’d be interesting to know that flying snakes are capable of gliding better than flying squirrels and other gliding animals, notwithstanding the lack of limbs, wings, or any other wing-like projections, through the forest and jungle it inhabit, with the distance being as great as 100 m. In recent research conducted by the University of Chicago, the snake’s ability to glide has been an object of interest for physicists, and they found a correlation between size and gliding ability in which smaller flying snakes were able to glide longer distances horizontally.
So far, there’re five recognized species of flying snakes found from India to the Indonesian archipelago. Some of them are Golden Tree Snakes (Ornate Flying Snakes), the largest flying snake, measuring 4 feet in length, with different color variations. Due to its smaller size, its gliding ability is weak. The other is the Paradise Tree Snake, which is a flying snake that reaches up to 3 feet in length and is famous in the European pet trade.
The most famous coloration bodies are black, covered in rich green scales. Clusters of red, orange, and yellow-colored scales in the shape of flower petals line the dorsal area from the base of the neck to the tail. Its gliding ability is considered to be one of the best among flying snakes. The twin-barred tree snake, also called a banded flying snake, is the smallest flying snake, reaching up to 2 feet in length, with the base color being black or dark grey, and the entire body is covered with thick red and thin yellow with black bands. It does not glide.