The researchers, who published their findings Monday in the journal Nature Physics, said they conducted indoor experiments with Chrysopelea paradisi, better known as the paradise tree snake, and developed a computer model to determine why the snakes undulate when they glide through the air.
The study authors said all snakes undulate to help them move forward when they slither on the ground, but researchers did not previously have an answer as to why paradise tree snakes undulate in both horizontal and vertical waves while gliding through the air.
Isaac Yeaton, the lead author of the study, said the researchers determined the snakes undulate to stabilize their bodies in the air. He said the motion also appears to help the reptiles cover more distance.
Yeaton said the researchers are next aiming to observe the snakes gliding in outdoor environments to help the team determine how the animals generate lift and turn while gliding.