The thought of flying snakes could give nightmares to people fearful of snakes. Flying snakes are somewhat misnamed, because they actually glide.
There are five species of these airborne snakes in the genus Chrysopelea, native to South and Southeast Asia from India to Indonesia. They range from two to four feet long.
When they start their glide, they first rise up and then push themselves off a tree branch or trunk into the air. They flatten their bodies somewhat, resulting in a shape something like an upside down letter U but with short sides. This gives the snakes a better aerodynamic shape and generates a little lift. Flying snakes can glide a hundred yards, and are as agile as other gliding species, such as flying squirrels. In the air, their bodies look like they are swimming.
Just why these snakes take to the air is not fully understood. One theory is that it allows a quick escape from predators. Another theory is that gliding allows these arboreal snakes to travel from tree to tree in search of their own prey, without having to cross the dangerous forest floor.
They feed on other tree dwellers such as lizards and frogs. They are mildly poisonous but not very dangerous to people.
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