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Mayday, mayday

The United States Department of Defence is reportedly funding research into the physics of so-called “flying snakes” native to Cambodia.

The Washington Post reported last week that the US Defence Advanced Research Projects Agency - an arm of the government focused on military technology that helped lay the groundwork for the modern internet - was funding a study on the flight dynamics of the reptile genus Chrysopelea.

The snakes launch themselves from trees and drop briefly before flattening their ribcages and undulating from side to side, allowing them to glide long distances to the ground or other branches.

They are found in a number of East Asian nations and are common in the Kingdom, said Jeremy Holden, a field biologist with Flora and Fauna International.

“They’re not very rare, but they are difficult to see because they’re tree snakes and most of them spend all their time in the canopy,” Holden said. The “ragged” quality of forests in the region, he added, has given rise to similar adaptations in creatures such as squirrels, lizards and frogs, as the animals are often forced to travel long distances from tree to tree.

Virginia Tech University’s John Socha, whose work on the snakes has been supported by DARPA, told the Washington Post that their flight was of “great interest” to the agency.

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