Friday, February 14, 2014

Post Revamp: the Arabhar

The Arabhar is a cryptid snake known for its ability to fly.  It reportedly lives in the Arabian Sea region, and is capable of traveling great distances through the air.  The mechanism for this creature's flight has not been reported -- I've seen it depicted with both wings and sails.  The former would make it capable of true flight; the latter would make it better suited to gliding.

Surprising as this may seem, the Arabhar is a fairly believable cryptid.  After all, there are already five species of "flying snake" known to science.  Found in the genus Chrysopelea, they are capable of climbing trees and gliding hundreds of feet through the air.  They do this by flattening their body to form a wing-like shape, then undulating back and forth for propulsion.

This gliding is not true flight.  Flying snakes lack wings, leaving them unable to surmount the force of gravity.  This means that they are incapable of increasing their altitude, and can only travel downwards.  Furthermore, they have little control over their direction, and can vary it only slightly in midair.  During "flight", these snakes are living javelins -- traveling only in the direction they were launched.

Could the Arabhar be a new "flying" snake?  Easily.  Multiple Chrysopelean species live in India and Sri Lanka -- exactly where the Arabhar is found.  The snake pictured here is one of them, and may well belong to this cryptid's genus.  This theory does an excellent job of explaining the Arabhar -- but it's not the only one out there.  With great hesitation, I now present to you a second option.  It's highly improbable, especially because the Chrysopelean theory is so strong.  But nothing is impossible, especially in cryptozoology, and so I'm forced to ask... could the Arabhar actually have wings?

Flight has independently evolved several times.  Birds, bats and insects all developed this feature quite separately -- so perhaps a snake could too.  But how would such a flight mechanism work?  Birds and bats use modified forelimbs as wings -- but snakes have no limbs at all.  The most popular theory is inspired by the "flying dragon" -- lizard that "flies" using flaps of skin.  These skin-flaps are attached to long, projecting ribs, which form a sort of sail.  When the dragon leaps out of a tree, it extends its "wings" and glides -- sometimes up to 200 feet.

Again, though, this is not true flight.  The flying dragon is a glider, just like the flying snakes -- which have a much more efficient and probable propulsion system.  There's only one piece of evidence that the Arabhar has wings -- and it comes from ancient Egypt.  There, legends told of flying snakes, capable of spitting deadly poison.  These creatures were portrayed with massive wings, and their images served as tomb decorations.  Were the Egyptians recording a real creature?  Most likely not, but who knows... perhaps they were witnesses to the Arabhar.

Read more about the Arabhar:
Image from (public domain)

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