Did You Know Flying Snakes Existed?

Paradise tree snake.
Paradise tree snake. Photo: Justin Ong/Getty Images

As if snakes weren’t already one of the most widely feared and reviled creatures alive, it turns out that the wingless reptiles are also capable of flight? To be precise, not all snakes — only one species, the paradise tree snake. Also, “flying” might be a bit of an overstatement for what they do, which resembles long-jumping more closely than travel by air. But, still. Snakes can fly????

Though this information is a revelation to me, personally, it is not exactly a breaking discovery — apparently, some people have known about these flying snakes for quite some time. What is new, though, is our understanding of how the native Southeast Asian snake stays airborne. After lunging its 3-feet-long body off treetops at an impressive speed of 25 miles per hour (help me God), the paradise tree snake smoothly “undulates” its taut body while suspended in the air, which left scientists with one main question: Does this serve any purpose? Now, thanks to researchers at Virginia Tech, the mystery has been solved: According to their findings, published this week in the journal Nature Physics, the undulation “enables gliding.” Nice.

“It’s hard to believe a snake can do this,” one researcher told the New York Times. “It’s kind of scary.” Indeed — apologies for the nightmare fodder.

Did You Know Flying Snakes Existed?