Incredible video shows Salamanders free falling in ‘Skydiver’ pose

(ORDO NEWS) — Aneides vagrans, also called the wandering salamander, is an elusive animal. Its natural habitat is the canopy of California redwoods, the tallest trees in the world, making it difficult to see.

One thing is known about this salamander: if disturbed, it willingly jumps from the branches of trees, adopting a pose similar to that adopted by skydivers, as shown below.

“I was confused by the fact that these salamanders jump so easily, given the height of the trees they live in,” said Christian Brown, Ph.D. from the University of South Florida and author of the study.

These salamanders are particularly well adapted to life under redwood canopies, Brown told Insider.

They have long tails, long limbs, and a flattened body that is ideal for climbing.

But their long, narrow bodies don’t look particularly aerodynamic. Unlike their distant relatives, the gliding leaf frog and the flying gecko, they do not have skin scutes or webs to help them glide.

So Brown and other scientists at the University of South Florida and the University of California at Berkeley set out to understand what salamanders are capable of.

Instead of dropping salamanders from great heights, scientists placed them in specially made wind tunnels that simulate falling from a tree. The results of their study were published on Monday in the peer-reviewed journal Current Biology.

The scientists found that salamanders have “a repertoire of postures and movements that they use to control their fall,” Brown said.

Incredible video shows Salamanders free falling in Skydiver pose 3

By twisting their tails and repositioning their toes and legs, salamanders could keep their bodies nearly parallel to the ground as they fell.

They could also “perform bank turns and slide in a horizontal plane,” Brown said.

By adopting this parachute-like pose, the salamander reduced its vertical speed by 10 percent, the study found.

Brown told Insider that he is now looking into whether these salamanders can direct their flight to avoid falling straight to the ground.

If they can, then it is more likely, in his opinion, that they prefer to return to the trunk to grasp the lower limbs of the tree or the thick bracken growing on the bark.

If they do fall to the ground, it probably won’t kill them, Brown said. These salamanders are relatively light and usually weigh no more than six grams. So their fall can be cushioned by the soft fluff around the base of the tree, he said.

However, the way back through the redwood can be fatal. A 2021 study found that it may take them hours or days to climb back under the canopy.

“During this time, they can dry out, become prey, or simply run out of energy before finding food again,” Brown said.

Other animals may have unexpected parachuting and gliding abilities that humans haven’t yet noticed, Brown said.

He hopes the study will draw attention to the complex but understudied biodiversity of the redwood canopy.

“Scientists have barely touched the surface in studying the red forest ecosystem and the unique fauna that evolved,” he said in a press release.

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