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Tired Of Walking Fish? Try Flying Snake

Forget the wings, disregard the flaps and ditch the rotors, it's possible to soar effortlessly through the air without the usual aerial props -- if you're an Asian paradise tree snake.

The Singapore native snake knows nothing about aerodynamics, but it can leap from heights and glide through the air simply by flattening and undulating its body.

"It is doing something that no other flyer, either natural or man-made, does, which is moving side-to-side while going forward," said Jake Socha, a biologist at the University of Chicago.

Most flying squirrels, lizards or frogs use wings or flaps to generate lift, although none of them have developed true flight like birds and bats.

The paradise tree snake, or Chrysopelea paradisi, lives in trees and has no appendages, so it forms its body into an "S" shape to keep it gliding through the air. The snake is a glider, and does not have the ability of true flight.

The snake steers, not by banking as in an airplane, but changing the pattern of how it slithers and undulates.

Its glide ratio, how far it travels horizontally compared to how far it falls vertically, is comparable to flying squirrels and lizards.

"They can locomote with a similar ability," said Socha. "These animals are real gliders."

He described the snake an "all-purpose athlete" because it can swim, climb trees and slither on the ground. But he is most interested in its aerial abilities.

Socha studied the snakes in the Singapore zoo and reported his findings in the science journal Nature.

He believes its gliding ability has some evolutionary purpose although he is not sure what it is. He also doubts humans will be able to incorporate its tricks into their own attempts to conquer the skies.

"I don't think we are going to see flying snake planes in 20 years but you never know," Socha added.

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