Monday, April 15, 2024

Flying Snakes

Every day, loads of scientific papers and information of all sorts hit my email inbox. I sort through it all, looking for things that will help make your work easier, more successful and more profitable.

This is not one of those things.This is just a really interesting story about snakes that fly, and the process that scientists go through to figure out how things work. And in case you’re thinking, “What a strange thing to study? Why would we waste time and money on that?” well, these scientists explain how we might be able to use what they learned to improve robotics in the future. That kind of thing is an example of why it can be helpful to us all when someone studies something a little odd – like flying snakes.

Are Flying Snakes Dangerous?

According to Wikipedia, “Flying snakes are mildly venomous, though the venom is dangerous only to their small prey.” You’re also unlikely to run across one unless you visit Southeast Asia, southernmost China, India, and Sri Lanka.

We don’t really know why they fly, though it may be to avoid predators. Flying snakes launch themselves from trees and then glide through the air, flattening their bodies to provide lift. But, as they glide they seem to swim, undulating their bodies from side to side. In this 3:58 video a team of Scientists at Virginia tech show us how they used motion capture technology to study snake gliding in precise detail. Their models reveal that undulation is vital for the snake’s stability as they glide from branch to branch.

If you’d like to read more, you can find the paper here, though you may need special access.

And if this whetted your taste for more science, you can sign up for the Nature Briefing: An essential round-up of science news, opinion and analysis. You’ll get it free to your inbox every weekday.

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Kathy Voth
Kathy Voth
I am the founder, editor and publisher of On Pasture, now retired. My career spanned 40 years of finding creative solutions to problems, and sharing ideas with people that encouraged them to work together and try new things. From figuring out how to teach livestock to eat weeds, to teaching range management to high schoolers, outdoor ed graduation camping trips with fifty 6th graders at a time, building firebreaks with a 130-goat herd, developing the signs and interpretation for the Storm King Fourteen Memorial trail, receiving the Conservation Service Award for my work building the 150-mile mountain bike trail from Grand Junction, Colorado to Moab, Utah...well, the list is long so I'll stop with, I've had a great time and I'm very grateful.

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