Researchers closing in on solving mystery of how some snakes fly
By Meeri Kim, Washington Post
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 upward.
“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.
Read more at: Washington Post