(CNN)Snake-haters, look away -- and, whatever you do, don't look up.
Scientists have discovered that brown tree snakes can use a lasso-like movement to climb large, smooth cylindrical objects -- a way of moving never seen before in the reptiles.
Experts from Colorado State University and the University of Cincinnati made the discovery by chance while working on a project aimed at protecting the nests of Micronesian starlings on Guam -- one of only two native species remaining on the island.
People accidentally introduced brown tree snakes to the Western Pacific territory in the 1940s-50s, and the invasive species has since decimated forest bird populations on the island, as well as being responsible for power outages.
Using a three-foot metal baffle -- often used to keep birds safe from racoons and other snakes -- researchers attempted to keep the tree snakes from climbing up to bird boxes.
But, to their astonishment, video surveillance of the boxes revealed a brown snake writhing its way up to the bird box, having formed a lasso around the cylindrical pole, eight inches in diameter, with its body.
Snakes generally use one of four types of locomotion -- known as rectilinear, lateral undulation, sidewinding and concertina modes -- in order to move. When climbing steep and smooth surfaces, like branches or pipes, the animals typically use a "concertina" movement, bending sideways to grip in at least two places.
But by "lassoing," the snakes are able to form a single gripping region, with little bends formed in the loop of the lasso, allowing them to advance slowly upward, researchers said.
"We didn't expect that the brown tree snake would be able to find a way around the baffle," study co-author Thomas Seibert, of Colorado State University, said.
"Initially, the baffle did work, for the most part," Seibert said. But after four hours of video footage, "all of a sudden, we saw this snake form what looked like a lasso around the cylinder and wiggle its body up. We watched that part of the video about 15 times. It was a shocker. Nothing I'd ever seen compares to it," he said.