And God Created ...

Flying Snakes

David Everson

Flying what? As if snakes needed any other method to scare most people, there are some that are, really, very able flyers. So, is it now necessary to watch the sky as well as the ground as we hike through the woods? Well, not in most parts of the world, but in the tropical rainforest of Southeast Asia it might be good if you keep one eye focused upward. Let us stop and look at the features that God has created, thankfully, in a very few snakes that have mastered very controlled aerial maneuvers.

It really should not be considered flying as we think of birds, insects, and bats, but these snakes join several animals, such as the flying squirrel, frogs, and even some ants, that are capable gliders. In an eight year study, zoologist Jake Socha, of the University of Chicago, has studied how these reptiles have, "without wings-like appendages" are "skilled aerial locomotors."

Snakes were created with ribs that run the length of their bodies, right up to the tail. These structures allow the snakes that fly to flatten their bodies into a "Frisbee-like form." We know that when a Frisbee is thrown fast enough it will "fly" for a considerable distance. This is similar to what is seen in these "flying snakes."

The snakes that were studied were the Paradise Tree snakes and the Golden Tree snakes of the jungles of Southeast Asia. These snakes can fly up to 50 or more feet from one tree to another. This is done by crawling to the upper branches of a tree and then either dropping off or actively crawling rapidly off the end of the branch. As the snake begins its fall, it will flatten its ribs and start S-shaped waves along the length of its body by moving its head from side to side. It holds its body parallel to the ground and undulates its body in this S-shaped pattern for the entire time it is flying. These motions allow the snakes to control their glide and, at least in one snake, actually to steer the direction of the flight. These abilities have yet to be fully studied by scientists but are a marvel of the creative ability of God.

Most of these snakes are harmless to humans, having just very mild venom, but they can grow up to 3 to 4 feet in length. They feed on lizards, birds, frogs, and bats. However, the very thought of snakes flying down from the tree tops could be another reason why many people would be even more frightened of the slithering reptiles than they already are.

In the many features God has given to snakes, we can see the wisdom and majesty of the Almighty Creator. Even though we might have deathly fears of snakes, let us always look with wonder at the powers of our Creator. Rt. 1, Box 116A, Belington, WV 26250.


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