Home | Field studies and notes | Paradise and Ornate Flying Snakes – New Research and Notes on Captive Care

Paradise and Ornate Flying Snakes – New Research and Notes on Captive Care

Flying snakeHello, Frank Indiviglio here.  Of all the gliding animals, Flying Snakes (Genus Chrysopelia) appear to me to be the most unlikely…they just don’t seem suited to moving through the air.  Yet they do, and quite well – not matching the abilities of flying squirrels, but certainly right up there with gliding geckos and frogs.  A recent study shed some light on their unique abilities, and suggests that they may serve as models for small, agile flying vehicles.

Natural History

Five species of Flying Snakes, sometimes known as Asian Parrot Snakes (not to be confused with Latin America’s Parrot Snakes, Genus Leptophis; please see photo) range throughout much of South and Southeast Asia.  The Ornate Flying Snake (Chrysopelia ornata) and, less commonly, the Paradise Flying Snake (C. paradisi), are sporadically offered for sale in the USA.

Markings and color varies greatly among individuals.  All, however, live up to the “ornate and paradise” parts of their names, exhibiting rich and complicated patterns and hues of blue, green, black and, in some, red and orange.

Captive Care

Flying Snakes are rear-fanged and produce mild venom.  The venom affects only the animals upon which they feed, and is not considered dangerous to people, but care should be exercised by keepers.

The wild-caught Paradise Flying Snakes I kept years ago in zoo collections proved somewhat difficult captives, refusing all but small lizards and frogs.  I’ve been informed by colleagues that captive bred specimens (which are not common), readily accept “scented” pinkies and mice.  Ornate Flying Snakes seem more willing to consume rodents straight away – reluctant feeders can be tempted by a lizard-scented pink mouse.

The largely arboreal Flying Snakes are ill-at-ease on the ground, and should be housed in tall terrariums stocked with branches and, if possible, sturdy live plants.  While not overly-shy, they definitely prefer the security offered by vegetation (please see article below).

Temperatures of 78-80F (85-88F at the basking site) suit them well.  Shredded bark makes an ideal substrate.  If sprayed each day it will help maintain the high humidity favored by Flying Snakes…just be sure it dries within an hour or so and that the snakes have access to dry basking sites.

Flying Snakes, being diurnal and arboreal, may benefit from the provision of UVA and low UVB radiation (the Zoo Med 2.0 bulb is worth trying).

Studying Snake “Flight”

Flying snake LoraResearchers at Virginia Tech investigated the Paradise Flying Snake’s unique airborne skills by tossing individuals from a 50-foot-tall water tower and filming the (happily successful!) “flights”.  Analysis of their body position showed that a complicated set of movements (rigid and moving body sections, tilting) allowed the snakes to travel outward from their take-off site by up to 79 feet (while believed to be an escape mechanism, gliding may be a means of travel as well – field research is lacking).  The snakes, described as “one long wing” by one biologist, moved through the air at 26-33 feet per second, and all landed safely.

The study was published in the November, 2010 issue of Bioinspiration and Biomimetics (please see below), along with articles on the unique airborne abilities of gliding geckos, gulls and hummingbirds.  Further studies of these animals may lead to advances in robot and air vehicle technology.

Further Reading

Abstract of Flying Snake Studyand related NY Times Article.

Videos of Flying Snakes in action from study author.

Planted Terrariums for Snakes.

Please write in with your questions and comments. 

 

Thanks, until next time,

Frank Indiviglio

Flying Snake image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by LA Dawson

Lora image referenced from wikipedia and originally posted by Andreas Schluter

 

16 comments

  1. avatar

    great article. i remember when they used to sell them in department store petshops! madness!!!! poor snakes.

  2. avatar

    Hello Robert, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the kind words. I’m pretty sure I saw 1 in Woolworth’s Westchester Sq, Bronx store decades ago, along with (I am sure) various Side-Necked Turtles… We probably crossed paths in such places even then!

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  3. avatar

    Great article highlighting some unique snakes. Seems that these guys come in fair often. Gorgeous snakes but as mentioned a large arboreal enclosure is required. Have you any experience with Ahaetulla?

    It’d be neat to do an article on herps that are ok at room temperature(say-mid 60’s-mid 80’s) without supplemental heating/cooling.

    ~Joseph See

  4. avatar

    Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the kind words. I have kept Asian Vine Snakes of 2 species; they were easily stressed and did best in huge, planted enclosures with lots of height. A few took rodents (I used pinkies and rat pups) but it took some time; smaller individuals in particular favored lizards, sometimes chicks. Very sight-oriented – I don’t recall any taking food that was not alive or moved about with a tongs.

    Great article idea, thanks you; I have added it to my list and will try to get one out soon.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  5. avatar

    Interesting stuff. Some people online have gotten captive born babies to feed on guppies offered in a shallow dish. Apparently one species of Ahaetulla regularly fishes in the wild. Not sure how appropriate nutritionally would fish be for a lizard eater in the long term.

    On the same note as the last article idea-have you heard of anyone attempting to use a system similar to hamster trails for their snakes? Someone mechanically inclined enough could put together a system of clear tubes(something along the lines of pvc but clear) to allow their snake access to warmer/cooler parts of the home. Perhaps the cage placed in a bookshelf but with a tube extending to the windowsill for basking? Actually-you could go all out and have them run along your ceiling and everything-you’d just have to add some traction. Imagine having guests over and then have a 6 ft pinesnake glide across the ceiling…

  6. avatar

    Talking about sight orientation….

    I once released a 1.4 meter boomslang (in Namibia) back into the bush veldt.
    Any how, these snakes are living only up in the trees and feed mainly on birds and there eggs. Obvious that their sight has to be very good.
    But my amazement came when I released it on the ground in front of three huge thorn trees with entangled branches…
    It immediately took way in the trees and when it was out of sight (at least the snake thought so) it “looked” around and started moving toward the top of the furthest left tree….
    About 15mtr from the spot it “looked” around there was a bird’s nest!!! I could not believe my eyes as it emerged to the nest with great eagerness and upon arrival (unfortunately for the snake it was empty) almost seemed disappointed in the lonely nest.
    My only conclusion for this indescribable sight is the fact that it was winter and no leaves where on the trees. So it could only be that the snake recognized the “dark” blodge further away in the other tree…??? But still, that distance for a snake to see….still boggles my mind…maybe it was only my excitement that tends to exaggerate the distance but even a few meters are still indescribable as snakes are fixed on mainly moving objects!

    Well, this only adds to the amazing things still to be learned from nature, just as your article on the flying snakes…!!!

  7. avatar

    Hello Gert, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks as always for a most interesting post…quite a formidable snake you’ve helped out! Boomslangs are noted for their eyesight, but I don’t believe there has been much work done on just how far/well they can see. It seems, however, that movement is the key. So perhaps a bird that was in the tree for a few seconds attracted its attention to the general area? Another possibility is scent…as you know, they can detect airborne scents/chemicals with amazing accuracy…an abandoned nest would likely still hold enough scent to be attractive to the snake. Very interesting, either way, thasnk you…

    Good luck, be careful and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  8. avatar

    Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Interesting thoughts, thank you. Fish would be worth looking into – we often switch lizard and toad-eating snakes onto mice; I use pinks when possible as fur might be a problem (i.e. with Eastern Hog-nosed Snakes), but fish might be a better choice.

    I saw some great burrowing rodent exhibits in Japan along those lines, and have kept naked mole rats that way…I think it would be wonderful to try with snakes, especially as you describe, where they could basically wander all over. Cleaning is always a problem; would need a way to access all areas.

    At the Central park Zoo we had tossed around the idea of running tubes out of the leaf-cutter any exhibit – into handrails, overhead, etc., but it never came to be; USDA exhibit requirements got in the way, I believe…would have been nice, though, as they always return to the nest.

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  9. avatar

    Hello Frank,

    Leafcutter handrails would have been a hit! Bummer on USDA regs.

    On cleaning-so long as they were connected with fittings that are not permanent they could be unscrewed and hosed down. The only major issues I see is security and ventilation. Holes drilled every so often would probably be ok, and so long as fittings and everything are secure I don’t see it causing too much trouble.

    ~Joseph

  10. avatar

    Hello Joseph, Frank Indiviglio here.

    Thanks for the feedback,…would be a nice project. Condensation was a bit of a problem for mammals, but I don’t think it would be for snakes.

    Leafcutters were fun; I had them escape through the screened top of a tank one night; they defoliated a stick insect holding cage, but could not get back through he screening of their exhibit with the leaf bits – so they piled them neatly on top!

    Please let me know if you need any further information. Good luck, enjoy and please keep me posted.

    Best regards, Frank Indiviglio.

  11. avatar

    What is the conservation status of C.ornata?

  12. avatar

    Hi Tania,

    There are no accurate surveys of this species in the wild. Given it’s wide range, the belief is that most populations are stable, except perhaps where there has been significant logging or other habitat loss, lying snakes can adjust to some disturbance, and in Thailand and elsewhere they frequently colonize homes and other structures in rural and semi-rural areas, preying upon geckos and other lizards that are also drawn to human habitation.

    The conservation needs of this species have not been evaluated by the IUCN, and it is not listed by CITES. I do not believe any of the countries in which it is found regulate collection or export.

    Please let me know if you need further information, Best regards, Frank

  13. avatar

    Which viper has the most potent venom?

  14. avatar

    Hi,

    Potency varies widely across each species range, so that one population may have a very different venom toxicity than another of the same species; usually this is in response to the type of prey taken, and the defenses evolved by the prey. Also, affects within the body vary, so lab tests of toxicity are not always directly applicable to effects on people. Generally, the most powerful toxins are considered to be those of some of the Elapids….seasnakes, cobras, taipans, brown snakes; Among the vipers, bushmasters, russel’s vipers and tiger rattlesnakes are generally thought to have some of the most powerful venoms, Best, Frank

  15. avatar

    Was Titanoboa from the Boidae family?I’m pretty curious about this giant(I wish it were alive today,slithering in the Amazonian jungles!)Since there’s a strong possibility of its being an ambush predator,I guess its coloration was in dark shades of either brown or green.May be it had mottles all over its body for better camouflage.Besides living on the jungle floor,perhaps it’s at home in water as well.(If todays retics,anacondas,rock pythons feel more at ease in water,their Big Daddy or Big Mama would feel it too.)
    But the question is,how the snake could move such a collosal body weighing 1,134kg or more?On land,a green anaconda’s top speed is only one and a half km per hour or so;then how sluggish Titanoboas were!How could such a heavy snake lunge at prey?What were its prey items?In your opinion,how much pressure in average it’d apply on prey while constricting it?

  16. avatar

    Hi Tania,

    Palaeontologists at the Smithsonian have looked into some of the questions you raise, and have created an exhibit based on their research. it was believed to have behaved as do today’s anacondas, inhabiting swamps, likely often in water and feeding upon fish, turtles and crocodiles. Speed, constricting force etc. would be difficult to predict, but perhaps in time that will be possible. A very interesting 5 page article on the Smithsonian’s work with this animal is posted here. I had the good fortune of working with modern day anacondas in Venezuela on several occassions..considering the difficulty in hauling out and tagging a 17 foot long snake, I would not want to tackle Titatnoboa! Please see this article for more on anaconda research. Best, Frank

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About Frank Indiviglio

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Being born with a deep interest in animals might seem unfortunate for a native Bronxite , but my family encouraged my interest and the menagerie that sprung from it. Jobs with pet stores and importers had me caring for a fantastic assortment of reptiles and amphibians. After a detour as a lawyer, I was hired as a Bronx Zoo animal keeper and was soon caring for gharials, goliath frogs, king cobras and everything in-between. Research has taken me in pursuit of anacondas, Orinoco crocodiles and other animals in locales ranging from Venezuela’s llanos to Tortuguero’s beaches. Now, after 20+ years with the Bronx Zoo, I am a consultant for several zoos and museums. I have spent time in Japan, and often exchange ideas with zoologists there. I have written books on salamanders, geckos and other “herps”, discussed reptile-keeping on television and presented papers at conferences. A Master’s Degree in biology has led to teaching opportunities. My work puts me in contact with thousands of hobbyists keeping an array of pets. Without fail, I have learned much from them and hope, dear readers, that you will be generous in sharing your thoughts on this blog and web site. For a complete biography of my experience click here.
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