Andaman Cobra
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11 Intriguing Facts About Andaman Cobra

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The Andaman cobra is a highly venomous species of cobra native to the Andaman and Nicobar Islands of India. This sleek, intimidating snake has long fascinated herpetologists and nature enthusiasts alike for its unique adaptations and behaviors.

Let’s explore 11 intriguing facts about this lesser-known cobra species:

Introduction

The Andaman cobra (Naja sagittifera, previously Naja andamanensis) belongs to the Elapidae family of venomous snakes. It is medium-sized, growing to lengths of 4-6 feet, with a slender build and smooth scales in hues of brown, black and white.

This species is endemic to the tropical rainforests and mangroves of the Andaman and Nicobar archipelagos in the Bay of Bengal. Due to its remote island habitat, the Andaman cobra has evolved in isolation and developed distinct characteristics setting it apart from other Asian cobras.

From its potent neurotoxic venom to its tree-climbing abilities, here are some fascinating tidbits about this mystifying serpent of the Indian Ocean.

Facts About the Andaman Cobra

1. Its Venom Causes Paralysis and Death

Like other cobras, the Andaman cobra has hinged fangs capable of injecting large amounts of venom in a single bite. This venom contains deadly neurotoxins that attack the central nervous system, causing paralysis, respiratory failure and cardiac arrest.

Without antivenom treatment, the mortality rate from an Andaman cobra bite exceeds 75%. Fortunately, species-specific antivenom is produced to treat envenomations.

2. It’s a Capable Tree Climber

The Andaman cobra displays exceptional climbing abilities, allowing it to inhabit trees and shrubs up to 10 meters above ground. It uses its slender muscular body to grip branches and its ridged underside scales for traction while climbing.

This arboreal talent provides access to tree-dwelling prey like birds, lizards and rodents. It also serves as an anti-predator adaptation, keeping the cobra safely out of reach from predators on the forest floor.

3. They are Strong Swimmers

Andaman cobras are adept swimmers capable of crossing large water bodies with ease. They propel themselves using serpentine undulations while holding their heads above the water surface.

This talent facilitates hunting fish and frogs near the mangroves and swamps of their coastal habitat. It also aids in escaping predators and expanding their home ranges across islands.

4. Smaller Hoods Than Other Cobras

Unlike king cobras and other Naja species that can flare neck skin into intimidating hoods, Andaman cobras have smaller hoods that don’t extend beyond the width of their heads.

Their hoods likely serve a defensive purpose in making the snakes appear larger and more threatening to potential attackers. When confronted, they stand their ground and spread their necks rather than fleeing.

5. Oviparous Reproduction

Andaman cobras are oviparous – the females lay clutches of around 12-20 eggs in leaf litter, hollows or termite mounds. They don’t provide any maternal care after that.

The eggs incubate for 60-80 days before hatching. Baby cobras emerge fully venomous and capable of hunting prey shortly after hatching.

6. Opportunistic Generalist Predators

These snakes are opportunistic generalist predators that consume a wide variety of small animals. Their diverse prey menu includes frogs, toads, lizards, birds, eggs, rodents and other small mammals.

Being generalists allows them greater flexibility in prey choice as habitat and food availability shifts on their island ecosystems.

7. Most Active From Dusk Till Dawn

Andaman cobras tend to be most active at twilight hours during dusk and dawn. This crepuscular activity pattern likely relates to the activity cycles of their prey species.

During the day, they remain hidden in dense vegetation, rock crevices or tree hollows to avoid overheating in the tropical sun. They emerge at night to hunt under the cooler nocturnal temperatures.

8. Threatened By Habitat Loss

Deforestation across the Andaman and Nicobar Islands poses a major threat to the long-term survival of Andaman cobras. Logging and land clearing destroys the rainforest ecosystems these snakes depend on.

Their populations become fragmented as their forest habitats shrink and become patchier due to human encroachment. Protecting their native wilderness habitats is crucial for conservation.

9. Classified as Venomous by IUCN

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) categorizes Andaman cobras as Venomous snakes under their Red List assessments. This means they are capable of inflicting serious harm or death to humans via their venomous bite.

However, Andaman cobras are generally shy, reclusive snakes that avoid confrontation when possible. Bites typically happen when they feel threatened and cornered with no escape route.

10. Cited in Snakebite Mortality

Although bites are rare, Andaman cobras do contribute to snakebite morbidity and mortality in their native islands. With over 75% untreated mortality, their highly potent venom can swiftly kill without medical intervention.

However, the species-specific antivenom manufactured in India is extremely effective in neutralizing venom effects if administered promptly under clinical care.

11. Local Names Reflect Danger

Vernacular names for this species across the Andaman Islands highlight a healthy respect for its lethality. Some local monikers translate to “tree snake”, “black cobra” or “killer snake”, reflecting indigenous knowledge of its arboreal habits and deadly venom.

Other names like “ten headed snake” hyperbolize this snake’s ability to kill multiple men with one bite from its venom-injecting “many heads” (fangs).

Conclusion

The Andaman cobra truly embodies a magnificent interplay of beauty and danger in nature. Its graceful movements, tree-climbing finesse and shy temperament belie the lethal venom it carries.

We still have much more to understand regarding the evolutionary history, ecology and conservation needs of this mystifying serpent. As human activities continue altering its island ecosystems, protecting the Andaman cobra’s remaining wilderness strongholds is crucial.

With only about 2500 mature individuals left in the wild, more research and habitat conservation efforts are necessities to preserve these snakes for future generations. Their demise would represent the tragic and irreversible loss of a uniquely adapted species.


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