Animals and creatures that live in a very specific environment have adapted over the centuries to survive and thrive in these treacherous milieus. The rainforests of the world are one such place. Creatures here have learned to fly, or actually glide, from tree to tree as a means of transportation.
The Flying Snake, or Chrysopelea, is one animal that has adapted to a life in the trees by gliding. The fact that this tubular animal can fly when it clearly should not be possible has kept the world amazed for centuries. However, there are many more interesting facts about this graceful flying snake that first meets the eye.
The appearance of flying is made by flattening out their bodies into a thin ribbon shape that actually pushes air around and down, causing a lift not unlike an airplanes wing. They use the speed and velocity of the freefalling air and the specific contortions of their body to glide through the air for hundreds of feet, turning and changing direction as they go.
Seeing one of these flying snakes is nothing short of miraculous. Since their contortions and body movements allow them to glide for so long and actually change directions the appearance of flying is very realistic. They are both frightening and majestic simultaneously.
The flying snake is found in the rainforests of Asia, from Indonesia to India. There are only five species of flying snake throughout this entire area and one, the twin barred tree snake, is rare. They range in size from two feet to over four feet and spend their entire lifespan living in the tree top canopies of the rain forests.
Life in the canopies of the trees in the Asian rainforest is unlike any other life. The lush treetops are so verdant and thick, a whole world of creatures lives every day without touching the ground. These various animals are called gliders. They have adapted through centuries of evolution to glide among the tree tops and live successful lives.
Gliding takes so little energy and effort. The gliders often eat less than most other animals of their size because they require less energy. Flying snakes are diurnal. Diurnal animals hunt during daylight hours. They hunt and eat small vertebrates living in the tree tops of the rain forests. The specifics of what they eat are dependent on the areas they live in. Rodents, lizards and small birds are an average meal. They use their gliding ability to catch prey that is also arboreal.
Flying snakes do have fangs, they do bite and they are venomous. While all of those points are definitely negatives, it isn’t as bad as it sounds. Contrary to most types of snakes, flying snakes are opistoglyphous, which means they have rear-facing fangs that are fixed or immoveable. While many species of snakes have hollow fangs, these snakes’ fangs have a small groove that runs the length of it and allows the venom to run down it into the prey.
Their fangs are small because they are fixed and if larger would puncture the snakes’ mouth. Their small, rear facing fangs and mildly harmful venom makes them harmless to humans. It works perfectly for them, however. The way the venom comes out and the placement and type of fangs allows them to kill only small prey and only inject venom that is well inside its mouth.
So quiet and timid are this snake that very little is really known about them. Breeding habits, for instance. Little documentation exists. All that is known is that they lay 6 – 11 eggs with hatchlings that are 15 – 20 cm.
Chrysopelea ornate, the ornate flying snake, is the largest of the species growing up to four feet long. They are considered weak glider because of their larger size. They come in a variety of colors even though one of their common names is the Golden Tree Snake.
The twin barred tree snake is the smallest of the species. It is black with red and yellow bands. It rarely grows larger than two feet long and although small is not considered the best glider. That distinction goes to the Paradise Tree Snake.
The Paradise Tree Snake is a stunningly beautiful creature and sought after as pets in Europe. They are a rich, shiny black color with flower shaped scale patches along its dorsal area from neck to tail. They are considered one of, if not the, best gliding snake in all five species.
The flying snake is an amazing creature with still much to teach us. It’s fascinating capability to adapt to the world it lives in is a lesson in wildlife, in biology and in the way of the world. Seeing this amazing creature in flight is breathtaking. It may not be real flight but it is definitely really amazing.