Cobra is the common name for members of the family of venomous snakes, Elapidae, known for their intimidating looks and deadly bite. Cobras are recognized by the hoods that they flare when angry or disturbed; the hoods are created by the extension of the ribs behind the cobras' heads. These reptiles are found throughout the Philippines, southern Asia, and Africa. The king cobra is the world's longest venomous snake. The king cobra, or hamadryad, holds the record length of 24 ft. for a venomous snake! The king cobra is unique among snakes in that it makes a nest for its eggs, scraping up leaves and other debris in which to deposit them, and remains in the nest until the young hatch. It averages 3.7 m (12 ft) in length but is known to grow to 5.5 m (18 ft).
It is a thin snake, olive or brown in color, with bronze eyes. It is found in the Philippines, Malaysia, southern China, Burma, and the Malay Peninsula. The other cobra of Asia is known variously as the common, Asian, Indian, or spectacled cobra (due to the eyeglass-shaped pattern on its skin). It seldom reaches a length of more than 1.8 m (6 ft). The hood of the Asian cobra is, proportionately, much larger than that of the king cobra and is usually yellow to brown, with a black-and-white spectacle pattern on top and two black and white spots on the lower surface. This snake causes thousands of deaths each year in India, where it is regarded with religious awe and are seldom killed. It ranges from the eastern shore of the Caspian Sea to China and Malaysia. Most cobras are natives of Africa. Among them is the spitting, or black-necked cobra, found from southern Egypt to northern South Africa.
This snake can spray its venom from a distance of about 2.4 (about 8 ft) accurately. Varieties of the spitting cobra range in color from dull black to pink, the lighter-colored ones marked by a black band around the neck. The ringhals, a different type of spitting cobra confined to southern Africa, is the smallest of the cobras, reaching only about 1.2 m (about 4 ft) in length. It is dark brown or black with ridged, or keeled, scales and light rings on the neck. The asp, or Egyptian cobra is widely distributed throughout Africa, being the most common. Contrary to folklore, cobras will seldom attack unprovoked. When threatened, however, the Cobra will make full use of its deadly force. Cobras are famous for their use by snake charmers because they respond well to visual cues, and are of spectacular appearance.
Scientific Data: Cobras belong to the family Elapidae (Reptilia: Serpentes). There is much discussion among researchers and taxonomists as to the actual variations of both the African and Asian species. Venom researchers have known of these differences for some time, but did not have a sound systematic framework on which to base this. It was not until recently, with an interest in developing more effective antivenins, that extensive scientific research has been conducted into these differences. Due to the ongoing research in the field, the classifications and taxonomic naming of the varieties of cobras is currently dynamic. I have attempted to use that information herein which is most widely accepted.
In the past, Asian cobras have been generally classified as Naja naja. More recent population systematics research has revealed a number of sub-species as follows: N. naja in northern india and Pakistan, N. kauthia in Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam; N. sumatrana in northern Malaysia and southern Thailand; N. oxiana in Pakistan, N. sagittifera in the Andaman Islands, N. atra in China, Taiwan, northern Vietnam, N. Philippinensis in the northern Philippines, N. samarensis in the southern Philippines, and N. sputatrix in southern Indonesia.
The king cobra is classified as Ophiophagus hannah (aka Hamadryad), the spitting cobra as Naja nigricollis, the Egyptian cobra as Naja haje, the water cobras as N. boulengerina, the tree cobras as N. pseudohaje, the "pink" cobra as N. pallida, and the shield-nose cobra as N. aspidelaps.
Among snakes, cobras and coral snakes may be singled out as having a particularly neurotoxic venom; among other animals, the venom of arachnids also falls into the neurotoxic category. The spitting cobra can spray its venom from a distance of about 2.4 (about 8 ft) into the eyes of its victims, causing temporary blindness and great pain. Venom coming in contact with human eyes causes an immediate and severe irritation of the conjunctiva and cornea that, if untreated, may result in permanent blindness. The venom of cobras, a neurotoxin, acts powerfully on the nervous system. With effective serum more available, however, the high death rate from cobra bites in some areas of Asia has decreased. Cobra venom has been used for many years in medical research because it has an enzyme, lecithinase, that dissolves cell walls as well as membranes surrounding viruses.
A common misconception is that baby snake are deadlier than adults. While not proven scientifically, it would seem that an adult cobra can control the the amount of venom delivered, if any, with each bite, depending on the threat it feels. A baby snake has no control over the amount of venom delivered by its bite, thus always giving a full dose. A baby cobra is fully able to defend itself in as little as three hours after entering the world. Cobras are completely immune to the venom produced by their species.
Venom: poison of animal origin, usually restricted to poisons that are administered by biting or stinging and used to capture—and, sometimes, aid in digesting—prey, or for defense. Thus the poisons secreted by the skin of some toads, or accumulated in the bodies of numerous inedible animals, are ordinarily not considered venoms. The most familiar venomous animals are certain snakes and insects and the spiders and other arachnids. Venomous species occur throughout the animal kingdom, however, including the mammals. Some shrews, for example, have venomous saliva, and the platypus bears poison spurs on its hind legs. The severity of a venom's effects depends on several factors, such as its chemical nature, the stinging or biting mechanism involved, the amount of venom delivered, and the size and condition of the victim. For example, all spiders are venomous, but the venoms of most are too weak or minute in quantity to have noticeable effects on humans; in addition, many spiders cannot even puncture human skin. Thus, few of them are poisonous to humans, but their venoms are quite effective on insect prey. Chemically, venoms vary greatly across the animal kingdom and are not readily defined. Snake venoms, for example, are complex mixtures of enzymatic proteins and different toxins. In terms of their effects, however, they may be broadly categorized as hemotoxic (damaging blood vessels and causing hemorrhage) or neurotoxic (paralyzing nerve centers that control respiration and heart action); they may also contain agents that promote or prevent blood clotting. Sometimes a combination of these effects is involved, however, and variations may occur within genera or even within species. The effects of insect stings are usually the result of histamines that produce local irritation and swelling. Serums against various venoms can be produced by injecting animals such as horses with sublethal doses and extracting the immune serum, or antivenin, that the animal body produces. Venoms themselves have occasional medicinal uses; for example, some are used as painkillers in cases of arthritis or cancer, and some serve as coagulants for people with hemophilia.
Note the distinction between venomousand poisonous: venomousrefers to a creature that has the ability to secrete or utilize it's venom externally, while poisonousincludes creatures that contain a poison substance. Often poisonous creatures are harmless unless eaten. Venomous creatures can often use their poison as a weapon. Cobras are all venomous, yet most are not poisonous, so long as the venom glands are not eaten.