The snake's gliding abilities are no match for a bird's, but they compare pretty well to those of flying squirrels, ants and lizards.
To get airborne, the snakes grasp a tree branch with their tail, then launch upwards.
They also seem to curl up and splay their ribs out to flatten their bodies, while undulating in the air.
A flying paradise tree snake, Chrysopelea paradisi.
Looked at in cross section, their flattened bodies resemble UFOs or rounded triangles, a shape that isn't typically found in engineered or natural flying objects.
To see why the snakes flattened out, researchers at Virginia Tech made a 3-D model of the snake and put it into a flow chamber. The shape was surprisingly aerodynamic.
Now, the researchers need to find out why the snake undulates as it glides.
Tia Ghose, Senior Writer
Tia has interned at Science News, Wired.com, and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and has written for the Center for Investigative Reporting, Scientific American, and ScienceNow. She has a master's degree in bioengineering from the University of Washington and a graduate certificate in science writing from the University of California Santa Cruz.