A limbless creature obviously can't have conventional wings and could suffer many problems in the blastoff.

Of cousrse I know the existance of the flying snakes, which are actually gliders. But I was thinking problem with the flying snake for this model is that they use flexible ribs to expand the surface area and slow down, using flexible ribs, this looks mutually excluyent with have a powered flying with resistant and strong bones (like a bird keel) for muscle attachment to permit the flapping to impulse the flight.

And other problem that this creature could is comparing with all the real flying all animals is that all them have had short bodys, I remember this is because long and flexible bodys or just tails increase the drag resistance of this animals causing that the required energy to fly increase much more.

So how a limbless creature could evolve powered flight, remembering the blastoff and stay in air?

Other things that could import for are the used bones and muscle changes.

  • $\begingroup$ Why bother asking a question to which you already have an answer here?, ribs have muscles, small muscles true but they still have them, flexing the ribs slightly to adjust attitude & such could extend glide distance & give excellent excuse for evolution to enlarge them, enlarged they can provide motive motion, initially just extending the glide & ultimately providing flight, I already laid all this out for you. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 19, 2021 at 19:55
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore . I made the mistake of asking that question before this one and because I thought it could be understood that the fact that it is an amphisbaenia with two limbs and not just a snake would not be mentioned because the limbs would be involved. Your answer is not bad I just think is better to be here. $\endgroup$
    – Drakio-X
    Aug 19, 2021 at 19:59
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    $\begingroup$ Fair enough > take a look at how this swims imagine the snake started doing that, now look at these Sting Ray a similar ripple but far less pronounced // you might imagine that as being a later development as the 'wings' got bigger & more defined as separate from the body as a whole. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 19, 2021 at 20:08
  • $\begingroup$ @Pelinore I like the sting ray as reference I can think about the snake can start to develop bone rods as osteoderms holding a membrane for do moves like in the first video, but keep my doubt about where would be placed the muscles responsive of the powerful flaps, this would required skeletal modifications but which how? $\endgroup$
    – Drakio-X
    Aug 19, 2021 at 20:17
  • $\begingroup$ "would required skeletal modifications" Of course, that would come in time as all evolution does, the same way we got all our bones & joints, as long as the selection pressure remains for ever-longer glide time (& later on for longer flight time), mutations happen & the useful ones get kept. $\endgroup$
    – Pelinore
    Aug 19, 2021 at 20:38

2 Answers 2


Presenting the "brolly" -- it flies a little like a swimming jellyfish, but it's actually as smart as an octopus...

First, you have ribs like those in an umbrella, light and somewhat flexible. A skin membrane similar to a bat's wing skin covers the "umbrella" surface, and a central "knot" containing the animal's nervous system, digestive tract, reproductive organs, and musculature to be able to either relax the umbrella to a gentle "inverted" cone (to descend in a controllable fashion -- an umbrella is unstable concave down) or contract to produce a "puff" of higher pressure.

Rapidly repeated contractions will propel the creature up (with horizontal motion via tilting) or allow a hover of sorts; relaxation will let it descend near-vertically but at a pretty slow rate, if only there's enough surface area relative to the mass.

Eyes on top and bottom, of course.

This might be something that could evolve from an aquatic octopoid -- they already have most of the shape, and some stiffening cartilage or bone in the tentacles, followed by a few million years of optimizing for stiffness and lightness, might let them transition from "flying" this way to swim, to actually leaving the water and being able to fly for longer and longer periods in the air.

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    $\begingroup$ that only works for creatures that are close to neutral buoyancy, in air it doesn't work. $\endgroup$
    – John
    Aug 20, 2021 at 15:21

This problem can be approached from the opposite direction. Rather than "How can a limbless creature fly?" one can ask "What conditions favor flight for limbless creatures?" I'm thinking an extremely dense atmosphere. Nowhere near as dense as water (since that would favor the development of fish-like flight, or outright swimming), but dense enough that limbless land animals could gain a significant advantage by slithering/swimming through the atmosphere.


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