By David Waldstein
Jake Socha is an expert on flying snakes who uses detailed scientific terminology such as “this big, wiggly, ribbon thing” to describe his soaring quarry.
It is an apt description, but don’t be fooled. When a snake launches off a tree in its Southeast Asian habitat and lands on another tree dozens of feet away, there is nothing random about those wiggles.
A professor of biomedical engineering and mechanics at Virginia Tech, Dr. Socha and his colleagues published a study on Monday in Nature Physics supporting the hypothesis that the midair undulations (the wiggles) are actually carefully coordinated and highly functional processes that enhance the dynamic stability of the snake in flight.
“I wouldn’t say all the mysteries are solved,” Dr. Socha said, “but we have a big piece of the story filled in.”
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