• Posted on December 11, 2014 11:27 pm
    By Chris
    Flying snakes Chrysopelias ornata

    Today’s Diary Entry is sponsored by Supreme Petfoods

    So most people have heard of flying pigs before, however today I actually got to meet a flying snake, and no it wasn’t through any accidents of any kind. The snake I was looking at was the ornate flying snake, Chrysopelia ornate that is found usually in southeast Asia. There are only 5 recognised species that belong to this group of the flying snakes.

    Now the flying snake can travel up to 100m in the air, and land with pinpoint accuracy using special adaptions to its body to make an aerodynamic wing. These adaptations include sucking in the stomach, and spreading out its ribs to flatten its body. Now to clarify this is more a Buzz Lightyear (Toy Story anyone) kind of flying as this snake is arboreal and lives in the trees and not on the ground. So what happens is the snake moves to the end of the branch, pulls back into a J shape, picks a landing spot and then launches itself off. During its entire journey the body keeps making its side to side movement that it would make on the ground to stabilise itself in flight.

    Once in the air the ribs move up flattening the body allowing the snake to glide. Sometimes nature is pretty cool as in addition to the ability to fly the flying snakes are also venomous. Now this venom is relatively weak and will only affect small prey (such as mice), however in addition to this the fangs are at the back of the mouth and are small. This means that it would have to be something pretty small being bitten for it to fit into the mouth for the fangs to reach so most humans are relatively safe with these snakes (though getting bitten is still not a good idea because of the bacteria).

    Today the flying snake was in after what we suspected to be trauma, the intestines had herniated (broken through) the circular muscles that surround the body of the snake so had to be replaced. The surgery went well, and hopefully my first snake patient that flies will make a good recovery.

    Just to note though, the unique adaptations of snakes between species is one of the reasons it’s so important to research to understand the needs of pet snake before getting one as they can be so different. This snake needs to live in a tree, and needs space to exhibit natural behaviour.

    Posted in categories: Vet School Diary

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