Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.


Gliding flight in the paradise tree snake


Most vertebrate gliders, such as flying squirrels, use symmetrically paired 'wings' to generate lift during flight, but flying snakes (genus Chrysopelea) have no such appendages or other obvious morphological specializations to assist them in their aerial movements1,2,3,4,5,6. Here I describe the three-dimensional kinematics of gliding by the paradise tree snake, Chrysopelea paradisi, which indicate that the aerial behaviour of this snake is unlike that of any other glider and that it can exert remarkable control over the direction it takes, despite an apparent lack of control surfaces.

Access options

Rent or Buy article

Get time limited or full article access on ReadCube.


All prices are NET prices.

Figure 1: Representative glide trajectory of Chrysopelea paradisi (snout–vent length, 64 cm; mass, 27 g).


  1. 1

    Daly, M. Bombay Nat. Hist. J. 12, 589 (1899).

    Google Scholar 

  2. 2

    Flower, S. S. Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 16 May (1899).

  3. 3

    Wall, F. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 18, 227–243 (1908).

    Google Scholar 

  4. 4

    Vaughn-Arbuckle, K. H. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 56, 640–642 (1959).

    Google Scholar 

  5. 5

    Pendlebury, H. M. Bull. Raffles Mus. 5, 75 (1931).

    Google Scholar 

  6. 6

    Heyer, W. R. & Pongsapipatana, S. Herpetologica 26, 317–319 (1970).

    Google Scholar 

  7. 7

    Scholey, K. D. in Biona Report 5, Bat flight – Fledermausflug (ed. Nachtigall, W.) 187–204 (Fischer, Stuttgart, 1986).

    Google Scholar 

  8. 8

    McGuire, J. Phylogenetic Systematics, Scaling Relationships, and the Evolution of Gliding Performance in Flying Lizards (genus Draco). Thesis, Univ. Texas, Austin (1998).

    Google Scholar 

  9. 9

    Emerson, S. B. & Koehl, M. A. R. Evolution 44, 1931–1946 (1990).

    PubMed  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information



Corresponding author

Correspondence to John J. Socha.

Ethics declarations

Competing interests

The author declares no competing financial interests.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Socha, J. Gliding flight in the paradise tree snake. Nature 418, 603–604 (2002).

Download citation

Further reading


By submitting a comment you agree to abide by our Terms and Community Guidelines. If you find something abusive or that does not comply with our terms or guidelines please flag it as inappropriate.


Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing