Fine Art

Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Reptilia
Subclassis: Diapsida
Infraclassis: Lepidosauromorpha
Superordo: Lepidosauria
Ordo: Squamata
Subordo: Serpentes
Superfamilia: Colubroidea
Familia: Colubridae
Subfamilia: Colubrinae
Genus: Chrysopelea
Species: C. ornata - C. paradisi - C. pelias - C. rhodopleuron - C. taprobanica


Chrysopelea Boie, 1826


* Boie, F. 1827. Bemerkungen über Merrem's Versuch eines Systems der Amphibien, 1. Lieferung: Ophidier. Isis van Oken, Jena, 20: 508-566.
* Chrysopelea at the New Reptile Database. Accessed on 23 August 2008.

Vernacular names
Deutsch: Schmuckbaumnattern
English: Flying Snakes

Chrysopelea, or more commonly known as the flying snake, is a genus that belongs to the family Colubridae. Flying snakes are mildly venomous,[1] though they are considered harmless because their toxicity is not dangerous to humans.[2] Their range of habitat is mostly concentrated in Southeast Asia,[3] the Melanesian islands,[4] and India.[5][6]


Chrysopelea is also known under its assigned common name "flying snake". It glides by using its ridge scales along its belly,[7] pushing against rough bark surface of tree trunks, allowing it to move vertically up a tree. Upon reaching the end of a tree's branch, the snake continues moving until its tail dangles from the branch's end. It then makes a J-shape bend,[7] leans forward to select the level of inclination it wishes to travel to control its flight path, as well as selecting a desired landing area. Once it decides on a destination, it propels itself by thrusting its body up and away from the tree, sucking in its stomach, flaring out its ribs to turn its body in a "pseudo concave wing"[8] all the while making a continual serpentine motion of lateral undulation[9] parallel to the ground[10] to stabilise its direction in midair in order to land safely.[11]

The combination of sucking in its stomach and making a motion of lateral undulation in the air makes it possible for the snake to glide in the air, where it also manages to save energy compared to travel on the ground and dodge terrestrial bounded predators.[7] The concave wing that a snake creates in sucking its stomach, flattens its body to up to twice its width from back of the head to the anal vent, which is close to the end of the snake's tail, causes the cross section of the snake's body to resemble the cross section of a frisbee or flying disc.[10] When a flying disc spins in the air, the designed cross sectional concavity causes increased air pressure under the centre of the disc, causing lift for the disc to fly.[12] A snake continuously moves in lateral undulation to create the same effect of increased air pressure underneath its arched body to glide.[10] Flying snakes are able to glide better than flying squirrels and other gliding animals, despite the lack of limbs, wings, or any other wing-like projections, gliding through the forest and jungle it inhabits with the distance being as great as 100 m.[10][13] Their destination is mostly predicted by ballistics; however, they can exercise some in-flight attitude control by "slithering" in the air.[1]

Their ability to glide has been an object of interest for physicists and the United States Department of Defense in recent years,[11][14] and studies continue to be made on what other, more subtle, factors contribute to their flight. According to recent research conducted by the University of Chicago, scientists discovered a correlation between size and gliding ability, in which smaller flying snakes were able to glide longer distances horizontally.[1]


Chrysopelea are diurnal so they hunt during the day. Prey includes lizards, frogs, birds and bats.[6][15]


There are five recognized species of flying snake, found from western India to the Indonesian archipelago. Knowledge of their behavior in the wild is limited, but they are thought to be highly arboreal, rarely descending from the canopy. The smallest species reach about 2 feet (61 centimeters) in length and the largest grow to 4 feet (1.2 meters). Their diets are variable depending on their range, but they are known to eat rodents, lizards, frogs, birds, and bats. They are mildly venomous snakes, but their tiny, fixed rear fangs make them harmless to humans. [16][17]

Golden tree snake or ornate flying snake, Chrysopelea ornata (Shaw, 1802): This is the largest species of flying snake, reaching up to four feet in length. Though it is called the golden tree snake, there are other colour variations; for example, some phases tend to lean towards lime green in colour rather than pure yellow, while in India, the it has orange to red markings and small black bars on the dorsum, almost as rich in colouration as the paradise tree snake. Due to their size, their gliding ability is considered weak.

Paradise tree snake, Chrysopelea paradisi (Boie & Boie, 1827): This flying snake species reaches up to three feet in length and is popular in the European pet trade. Their bodies are black, but covered in rich green scales. Clusters of red, orange and yellow-coloured scales in the shape of flower petals line the dorsal area from the base of the neck to the tail. This is the most well-known colouration, but some specimens may exhibit fully-green colouration without any bright dorsal markings. Their gliding ability is considered one of the best among the flying snakes.[11]

Twin-barred tree snake or banded flying snake, Chrysopelea pelias (Linnaeus, 1758): This is the smallest flying snake species, reaching up to two feet in length. Its base colour is black or dark grey, and the entire body is covered with thick red and thin yellow with black bands. They also have cream-coloured ventrolateral lines, while the ventrals are pale green. While it is tiny, it is undoubtedly one of the rarest flying snake species within its range. It is also, quite possibly, the best glider among all the flying snakes.[16]

Lesser studied species are:

* Moluccan flying snake, Chrysopelea rhodopleuron (Boie, 1827)
* Sri Lankan flying snake, Chrysopelea taprobanica (Smith, 1943)


1. ^ a b c "Researchers reveal secrets of snake flight". 2005-05-12. Retrieved 2007-11-27.
2. ^ "University of Chicago researchers reveal secrets of snake flight". The University of Chicago Medical Center. May 13, 2005. Retrieved 14 July 2009.
3. ^ Ferner, J.W.; Brown, R.W., Sison, R.V. and Kennedy, R.S. (2000). "The Amphibians and Reptiles of Panay Island, Philippines". Asiatic Herpetological Research 9: 1–37. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
4. ^ Socha, J. (1999-2005). "Approximate distribution of Chrysopelea". Retrieved 14 July 2009.
5. ^ Pawar, S. and Birand, A. "A survey of amphibians, reptiles and birds in northeast India" CERC Technical Report No.6 . Centre for Ecological Research and Conservation, Mysore. 2001. Accessed 2009-07-14.
6. ^ a b De Rooij, N. (1915). "The reptiles of the Indo-Australian archipelago" Leiden : E.J. Brill. Accessed 2009-07-14.
7. ^ a b c Dudley, R; Byrnes, G., Yanoviak, S.P., Borrell, B., Brown, R.M. and McGuire, J.A. (2007). "Gliding and the Functional Origins of Flight: Biomechanical Novelty or Necessity?". Annual Review of Ecology, Evolution, and Systematics 38: 179–201. doi:10.1146/annurev.ecolsys.37.091305.110014. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
8. ^ Garland, T, Jr.; Losos, J.B. (1994). "10. Ecological morphology of locomotor performance in squamate reptiles". Ecological morphology: integrative organismal biology. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press. pp. 240–302. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
9. ^ [|Jayne, B.C.] (December 1986). "Kinematics of Terrestrial Snake Locomotion". Copeia 4 (4): 915–927. Retrieved 2009-07-15. [dead link]
10. ^ a b c d Socha, J.J. (August 2002). "Kinematics - Gliding flight in the paradise tree snake.". Nature 418 (6898): 603–604. doi:10.1038/418603a. PMID 12167849. Retrieved 2009-07-14. [dead link]
11. ^ a b c Wei, C. (May 2005). "Inside JEB - Snakes take flight". The Journal of Experimental Biology 208 (10): i-ii. Retrieved 2009-07-14.
12. ^ Hummel, S.A. "Frisbee Flight Simulation and Throw Biomechanics." University of Missouri, Rolla Ph.D. Thesis. 1997. Accessed 2009-07-14.
13. ^ Ernst, C.H.; Zug, G.R. (1996). Snakes in Question: The Smithsonian Answer Book. Smithsonian Institution Press. pp. 14–15.
14. ^ Kaufman, Marc (22 November 2010). "DOD tries to uncover secret of flying snakes". The Washington Post. Retrieved 24 November 2010
15. ^ Socha, J. (1999-2005). "Flying Snake Frequently Asked Questions". Retrieved 15 July 2009.
16. ^ a b Socha, J. (1999-2005). "Chrysopelea pelias aerial images". Retrieved 14 July 2009.
17. ^ Socha, J.J.; LaBarbera, M. (March 2005). "Effects of size and behavior on aerial performance of two species of flying snakes (Chrysopelea)". The Journal of Experimental Biology 208 (Pt 10): 1835–1847. doi:10.1242/jeb.01580. PMID 15879064. Retrieved 2009-07-14.

Biology Encyclopedia

Reptiles Images

Retrieved from ""
All text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

Home - Hellenica World