Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Community News Network

March 10, 2014

Researchers tackle mystery of how some snakes can fly

An ornate, lime-green snake hangs from a branch. Upon spotting a predator, it suddenly propels itself into the air, flattening and wiggling its body until safely landing in a faraway tree.

Flying snakes sound like creatures from a bad B-movie, but these serpents are elegant gliders that have evolved a special skill that sets them apart. In two new studies, engineers have used simulations to try to decipher how the wingless reptile manages to remain airborne despite its lack of flight appendages.

While in the air, the snakes transform their cross-sectional shape, splaying their ribs and flattening their bodies. Through computational and physical modeling, researchers have discovered that this modified shape helps them become more aerodynamic and allows vortexes of air above their bodies to suction them upwards.

"Little by little, we built a theory about how the snakes are interacting with the air to generate very large lift forces," said aeronautical engineer Lorena Barba of George Washington University, who authored a study published in Physics of Fluids on Tuesday.

In a tornado, the low-pressure region is in the center, or eye. Similarly, researchers found areas of low pressure that form on top of the snake's body, creating a small amount of suction and helping to generate lift. In collaboration with flying-snake expert Jake Socha of Virginia Tech, Barba was able to visualize these swirls of air in a complex computer air-flow simulation.

An earlier study by Socha, published in the Journal of Experimental Biology in January, also investigated the flattened shape by using a 3-D printed snake model submerged in a tank of flowing water. Both experiments found that, surprisingly, the reptile has an excellent capacity to generate propelling flight forces, or lift.

They are called "flying snakes," but to be more precise, they are masters of the glide. Found in the lowland rainforests of Southeast and South Asia, flying snakes are fairly small creatures, growing to lengths of only a few feet and about the diameter of a lipstick. But upon jumping from a tall tree, say 30 feet, they can reach a horizontal distance of 10 times their body length.

Text Only | Photo Reprints
Community News Network
  • Police chief resigns over racial slur repost to Facebook

    A repost on his personal Facebook page of a racially-charged comment by the original poster of a comedy video has forced the police chief of an Oklahoma city to resign his office.

    August 21, 2014

  • Does Twitter need a censor?

    Twitter decided last year to make images more prominent on its site. Now, the social network is finding itself caught between being an open forum and patrolling for inappropriate content.

    August 21, 2014

  • sleepchart.jpg America’s sleep-deprived cities

    Americans might run on sleep, but those living in the country's largest cities don't appear to run on much.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Who should pay for your kids ACT?

    Thirteen states paid for 11th-grade students in all public high schools to take the ACT college admission test this year, with several more planning to join them in 2015.

    August 20, 2014

  • Pets.jpg Why do people look like their pets?

    As much as we might quibble over the virtues and vices of Canis domesticus, however, and over whether human nature is any better or worse than dog nature, even dog fanciers don't usually want to look like a dog.

    August 20, 2014 1 Photo

  • Ice bucket challenge trending up

    Internet trends are a dime a dozen these days. Everything from Tebowing to planking to the cinnamon challenge can cause a wave of social media activity that can last for weeks before fizzling out.

    August 19, 2014

  • Africa goes medieval in its fight against Ebola

    As the Ebola epidemic claims new victims at an ever-increasing rate, African governments in Sierra Leone, Guinea and Liberia have instituted a "cordon sanitaire," deploying troops to forcibly isolate the inhabitants in an area containing most of the cases.

    August 18, 2014

  • Democrat? Republican? There's an app for that

    If you're a Republican, you might want to think twice before buying Lipton Iced Tea, and forget about Starbucks coffee. If you're a Democrat, put down that Reese's Peanut Butter Cup, and throw away the cylinder of Quaker Oats in your pantry.

    August 18, 2014

  • Five myths about presidential vacations

    In the nuclear age, presidents may have only minutes to make a decision that could affect the entire world. They don't so much leave the White House as they take a miniature version of it with them wherever they go.

    August 15, 2014

  • Can 6 seconds launch a career? A generation of Vine stars sure hopes so.

    A year ago, Shawn Mendes filmed himself singing a tentative acoustic cover of the Justin Bieber song "As Long as You Love Me" and put the results on Vine. He wasn't expecting much response. "I didn't really want anything to happen; I just kind of wanted to see what people would think," says Mendes, 16. "I posted that first Vine and woke up the next morning with 10,000 followers. That was pretty cool."

    August 14, 2014

Latest news
Featured Ads
Only on our website
AP Video
NYC Doctor-in-chief Seeks Community Approach Indonesian Police Fire Tear Gas at Protesters Raw: Shots Fired in Liberian Shantytown DOJ, Bank of America Reach Record Settlement Raw: Cubavision Airs Images of Fidel Castro Raw: Grief After Deadly Airstrikes in Gaza Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Kathy Griffin Challenges Minaj to 'a Booty Off' Johnson: Six Arrests, No Tear Gas in Ferguson Raw: Rescue, Relief Efforts at Japan Landslide Cadavers, a Teen, and a Medical School Dream Raw: Woman Escorted From Ferguson Protests California Drought Stings Honeybees, Beekeepers Officer Who Pointed Gun at Protesters Suspended Holder Hopes to Bring Calm to Ferguson US Mission to Rescue Hostages in Syria Failed Manfred, Torre and MLB Take Ice Bucket Challenge Bank of America Reaches Record $17B Settlement Holder Reassures Ferguson Community With Visit GlobalPost CEO Remembers Foley As a Brave Man
Parade
Magazine

Click HERE to read all your Parade favorites including Hollywood Wire, Celebrity interviews and photo galleries, Food recipes and cooking tips, Games and lots more.
Obituaries
Poll
Kelly Lafferty's video on Tom Miller