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NatGeo: UC biologist talks about how snakes 'fly'

Biologist Bruce Jayne is studying the locomotion of the slithery serpents in his UC lab

University of Cincinnati biologist Bruce Jayne talked to National Geographic about the incredible way some tree snakes can "fly" from tree to tree.

Jayne, a professor of biological sciences in UC's McMicken College of Arts and Sciences, has been studying the four identified means of snake locomotion, which include sidewinding and the typical serpentine motion.

But some snakes have pushed these skills to extremes to sail through the air from treetop to treetop in the forest canopy while hunting or eluding predators. Scientists have identified five species of "flying" snake in Asia. They flatten their bodies to improve lift while they sail as far as 300 feet through the air, according to National Geographic.

"Really, how special is this ability in flying snakes?" Jayne asked the magazine. "If we look at their close relatives, can we actually see some precedents for their behavior? Maybe the flying snakes are just sort of at one end of a continuum."

Jayne has been studying the marvelous locomotive abilities of brown tree snakes, which are extremely adept climbers. These invasive snakes are believed to have island hopped to new territory such as Guam by using their incredible climbing skills to stow away on cargo planes and boats.

Featured image at top: UC biology professor Bruce Jayne uses a snake hook to move a brown tree snake in his lab. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

Bruce Jayne holds a a tiny green vine snake.

UC professor Bruce Jayne, holding a vine snake in his lab, is unlocking the surprising abilities of reptiles. Photo/Joseph Fuqua II/UC Creative Services

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