Mozambique Spitting Cobra
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19 Mind-Blowing Facts About Spitting Cobras

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The spitting cobra is one of the most fascinating and dangerous snakes in the world. As their name suggests, these snakes have a unique defense mechanism – they can spit venom from specialized fangs to blind predators.

Spitting cobras inhabit various parts of Africa and Asia and there are several different species. While they may resemble other cobras, they have distinctive physical and behavioral traits that set them apart.

Here are 19 mind-blowing facts about these incredible reptiles:

Introduction

Spitting cobras unusually utilize their venom to ward off predators and threats. Unlike other venomous snakes that inject their toxins by biting, spitting cobras can project their venom outwards towards the face and eyes of whoever is threatening them. This causes severe pain and possible blindness.

These snakes come equipped with specialized fangs and venom that make their spitting defense possible. The venom contains dangerous neurotoxins and enzymes that can cause severe reactions upon contact.

While spitting allows these snakes to keep predators at a distance, their venom can be just as fatal as other cobras if they do end up biting. Throughout Africa and Asia, spitting cobras instill fear and fascination due to their iconic means of attack.

Facts About Spitting Cobras

Naja siamensis, Siamese spitting cobra (juvenile) - Hua Hin District, Prachuan Khiri Khan
Naja siamensis, Siamese spitting cobra (juvenile) – Hua Hin District, Prachuan Khiri Khan by Rushen! is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 .
  1. There are at least 8 recognized species of spitting cobras found across sub-Saharan Africa and southern Asia. Some have vibrant markings while others have red bands showing when they hood up.
  2. The African species tend to be larger and bulkier than the Asian ones. For example, the Mozambique spitting cobra can reach lengths over 9 feet long.
  3. Spitting cobras differ from other cobras in having rounded scales on the back of their hood instead of keeled scales. They also have a notch in their fangs.
  4. These snakes aim for the eyes when spitting and can spray venom nearly 9 feet away. Their accuracy is extremely precise.
  5. Slow motion footage reveals that spitting cobras can fully empty their venom glands in a single spit, firing successive venom jets out of each fang.
  6. The venom causes immediate, searing pain but is less lethal than other cobra species. However, if left untreated, the venom can still blind victims.
  7. To avoid rubbing off their venom spray, spitting cobras often retreat backwards while facing the threat after spitting.
  8. The red spitting cobra is unusual in turning blue-black during its defensive display instead of showing a hood.
  9. Spitting cobras will fake strikes and spit without injecting venom to scare away nuisance predators that aren’t worth wasting venom on.
  10. These snakes flatten their necks into a hood prior to spitting as a visual warning to back off. The black throat markings also contrast dramatically.
  11. Juveniles can spit too, though they have poorer aim than more mature snakes. They sometimes need multiple spits to hit an attacker.
  12. Zookeepers wear eye protection when working with spitting cobras to avoid harm if the snakes accidentally spit at them.
  13. The venom contains nerve toxins but also causes blistering and tissue damage. Blinded victims often suffer permanent eye damage after being spat at.
  14. Spitting cobras thrive in various habitats including brush, forests, grasslands and deserts. Several species are very comfortable climbing trees.
  15. Local folklore claims that the red spitting cobra will spit into flames causing them to flare up suddenly.
  16. These snakes often rest in termite mounds where they find shelter and prey on the abundant rodents.
  17. Spitting cobras will play dead to avoid conflict, going limp and belly up. But they’ll spit if suddenly approached in this state.
  18. The ringhals cobra can spit up to 12 feet and will aim for animals and humans that get too close.
  19. Researchers think that juvenile spitting cobras practice their spitting aim on inanimate objects when they are alone.

Conclusion

The unique spit-defense of these cobras has helped them successfully spread across various habitats of Africa and Asia. Their specialized fangs and venom allow them to essentially “shoot” at threats, keeping danger at a safer distance.

Yet the spit is not necessarily their first line of defense. Given the chance, most spitting cobras will flee or try to hide first. By spitting only when cornered, they conserve their venom supplies for hunting prey.

These fascinating snakes remind us that there are endless evolutionary innovations allowing animals to stake out their place in nature. Spitting cobras have ensured their survival by turning their own venom against predators. Both feared and revered, they have secured an iconic status – but from a distance!


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