Draco lizards use their long, slender tails to steer themselves, and each sortie can carry them up to 30 feet (9 meters).
The wingless tropical ant Cephalotes atratus glides backwards as it falls. It steers in a directed descent that lands it on the trunk of the tree from which it fell—saving these insects from reaching the hostile and unfamiliar terrain of the forest floor
The membranes between their toes and loose skin flaps on their sides catch the air as they fall, helping them to glide, sometimes 50 feet (15 meters) or more, to a neighboring tree branch or even all the way to the ground. They also have oversized toe pads to help them land softly and stick to tree trunks.
Gibbons are masters of their primary mode of locomotion, brachiation, swinging from branch to branch for distances of up to 15 m (50 ft), at speeds as high as 55 km/h (34 mph). They can also make leaps of up to 8 m (26 ft), and walk bipedally with their arms raised for balance. They are the fastest and most agile of all tree-dwelling, non-flying mammals.
Flying squirrels glide, extending their arms and legs and coasting through the air from one tree to another. Flaps of skin connecting limbs to body provide a winglike surface. These gliding leaps can exceed 150 feet (46 meters). Flying squirrels eat nuts and fruit, but also catch insects and even baby birds.
Flying snake is a misnomer, since, barring a strong updraft, these animals can’t actually gain altitude. They’re gliders, using the speed of free fall and contortions of their bodies to catch the air and generate lift.
Colugos are surprisingly clumsy climbers. Lacking opposable thumbs and not being especially strong, they proceed upwards in a series of slow hops, gripping onto the bark of trees with their small, sharp claws. Colugos are as comfortable hanging underneath a branch as sitting on top of it. In the air, however, they are very capable, and can glide as far as 70 m (230 ft) from one tree to another with minimal loss of height.
The process of taking flight, or gliding, begins by gaining great velocity underwater, about 37 miles (60 kilometers) per hour. Angling upward, the four-winged flying fish breaks the surface and begins to taxi by rapidly beating its tail while it is still beneath the surface. It then takes to the air, sometimes reaching heights over 4 feet (1.2 meters) and gliding long distances, up to 655 feet (200 meters). Once it nears the surface again, it can flap its tail and taxi without fully returning to the water. Capable of continuing its flight in such a manner, flying fish have been recorded stretching out their flights with consecutive glides spanning distances up to 1,312 feet (400 meters).
Bats are the only mammals that can fly, but vampire bats have an even more interesting distinction—they are the only mammals that feed entirely on blood.
These notorious bats sleep during the day in total darkness, suspended upside down from the roofs of caves. They typically gather in colonies of about 100 animals, but sometimes live in groups of 1,000 or more. In one year, a 100-bat colony can drink the blood of 25 cows.
It is well known that spiders are effective at dispersal and colonization, in part because of their ability to ‘balloon‘ – small spiders (i.e., immature specimens, or adults of species that are small) will release a strand of silk and let the wind pick them up and carry them far distances. This passive ability to disperse has served spiders well, and enabled them to be among the first animals to colonize new habitats. For example, after the eruption of Mount St Helens, the depopulated Pumice Plain was re-colonized over time, and biologists kept an eye on what was dropping from the skies. Not surprising (to me!) was that spiders represented a lot of this ‘aerial plankton‘ – Crawford et al. (1995) reported that spiders represented “23% of windblown arthropod fallout and contributed 105 individuals per square meter“.