Saturday, December 8, 2007

spitting cobra

Spitting cobra
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Juvenile Red Spitting Cobra, Naja pallida
Red Spitting Cobra

Spitting cobra refers to any one of several species of cobras that have the ability to spit or eject venom from their mouth when defending themselves against predators. The spit venom is harmless to intact skin. However, it can cause permanent blindness if introduced to the eye and left untreated (causing chemosis and corneal swelling).

Despite their name, these snakes do not actually spit their venom. They rather spray the venom, using muscular contractions upon the venom glands. The muscles squeeze the glands and force the venom out the forward facing holes at the tip of the fang. At the same time that the venom leaves the fang tip, a large gust of air is expelled from the lung which aerosolizes the venom and propels it forward. When cornered, some species can "spit" their venom up to a distance of two meters. While spitting is typically their primary form of defense, all spitting cobras are also capable of delivering venom through a bite as well. Most species' venom exhibit significant hemotoxic effects, along with more typical neurotoxic effects of other cobra species.

1 Species of the spitting cobras
2 Other spitting species
3 References
4 External links

[edit] Species of the spitting cobras
Black-Necked Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricollis)
Black Spitting Cobra (Naja woodi)
Western Barred Spitting Cobra (Naja nigricincta)
Red Spitting Cobra (Naja pallida)
Mozambique Spitting Cobra (Naja mossambica)
Malaysian Spitting Cobra (Naja sputatrix)
Black and White Spitting Cobra (Naja siamensis)
Sumatran Spitting Cobra (Naja sumatrana)
Nubian Spitting Cobra (Naja nubiae)
Giant Spitting Cobra (Naja ashei)

[edit] Other spitting species
Some non-spitting cobras have been noted to spit occasionally. Certain, predominantly non-spitting, Asian cobras do have the spitting tendency.[citation needed] The Rinkhals cobra (Hemachatus haemachatus) is another elapid species, which while not belonging to the Cobra genus Naja, is closely related, and is capable of spitting venom.
conservation group says new species of giant spitting cobra, measuring about 2.5 metres and possessing enough venom to kill at least 15 people, has been discovered in Kenya.

WildlifeDirect said the cobras were the world's largest and had been identified as unique. The species has been named Naja Ashei after James Ashe, who founded Bio-Ken snake farm on Kenya's tropical coast, where the gigantic serpents are found.

"A new species of giant spitting cobra is exciting and reinforces the obvious - that there have to be many other unreported species but hundreds are being lost as their habitats disappear under the continued mismanagement of our planet," said the group's chairman, Kenyan environmentalist Richard Leakey.

Mr Ashe, now deceased, was the first to catch a larger-than-normal spitting cobra in the 1960s and suggest it belonged to a different species.

Bio-Ken director Royjan Taylor said the recognition of the new species was an opportunity to raise awareness about snake conservation as well as find remedies for the powerful bite.

"Naja Ashei is responsible for a very serious snake bite," he said by telephone from the farm. "People don't care about saving snakes. They talk of saving dolphins or cats, but never snakes!"

The conservationists' excitement has drawn scientific endorsement from a British-based biologist.

Research published by Wolfgang Wuster, of the University of Wales, said a field visit confirmed the Naja Ashei is a new species.

"The new species is diagnosable from all other African spitting cobras by the possession of a unique DNA," he wrote in a review in July.

- Reuters


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