That’s right! Snakes and spiders fly now! You’ve probably heard something about it by now. I know I’m always on the look out for the next nightmarish spider to come out of hiding, so I heard about this pretty soon after it was discovered. And then immediately forgot about it because my brain just couldn’t handle the fact that spiders fly now. But as freaky as they are, I thought it would be cool to learn more about them, if only to prepare ourselves for the moment we meet one (if we happen to go to the wrong rainforest).
Flying snakes are something I can better handle, but they’re still creepy. What’s good to know is that they’re thought to rarely leave the forest canopy which means it’s unlikely that you’re gonna be walking along and randomly get one stuck in your hair as it goes whizzing by. Another good thing to know is that they don’t fly, they glide “using the speed of free fall and contortions” according to National Geographic. And they only seem to exist in the jungles of south and southeast Asia, so if you don’t want to come across one, just don’t go there! (I’m sure you’d be missing out on a lot of cool things if you don’t go though (rainforests are cool!))
There are only five identified species of flying snakes so far. Also, according to National Geographic, they dangle themselves off of trees and form into an S-shape, and then flatten themselves to about twice their normal body width, which then gives them a C-shape that can trap air. They can maneuver in mid-air. They’re technically better gliders than flying squirrels! That’s crazy.
They range from 2 to 4 feet long and they eat bats, birds, rodents, lizards and frogs, but lizards are their main source of food. They’re daytime hunters so, yes, it is possible that you could see one if you’re walking around one of these forests. They a little venomous, but not to humans. It’s thought that they glide for a number of reasons, like to escape from predators, to hunt pray, and my personal favorite is that they are thought to glide because it’s easier than slithering all the way down to the forest floor (so they’re lazy).
Now, on to the real horror show. Flying spiders. Ick. I understand that spiders are good for the environment and they eat a ton of other bugs, but do they really have to fly? Jumping spiders are bad enough!
These spiders are called Selenops and were very recently discovered so there’s not a whole lot of information about them yet. Scientists called them “flatties” because even though they can get pretty big in size, they don’t get much thicker than a nickel, and some are even thinner than that! Some are so perfectly camouflaged that scientists had to actually climb the trees they were on until the spiders moved and gave themselves away. They found the spiders in the Panamanian jungle and the Peruvian rainforest.
Scientists discovered them by randomly dropping them out of containers, hoping to find insects that could “glide with precision,” according to National Geographic. They weren’t expecting the spiders to have the ability to glide, as they usually have a web that keeps them from falling. The scientists said that the spiders are fast and it looks like they steer themselves with their two front legs, though that hasn’t actually been proven yet.
And there you have it! Now you know a little bit more about flying snakes and spiders! You also know where they are, so just prepare yourself if you go to any of those jungles.
Photo courtesy of Chinmayisk.