Spitting Cobra

filed under | snakes | poisonous


A spitting cobra is one of several species of cobras that have the ability to eject venom from their fangs when defending themselves against predators. The sprayed 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. The venom sprays out in distinctive geometric patterns, using muscular contractions upon the venom glands. These muscles squeeze the glands and force the venom out through forward facing holes at the tips of the fangs. The explanation that a large gust of air is expelled from the lung to propel the venom forward has been proven wrong. When cornered, some species can "spit" their venom a distance as great as two meters. While spitting is typically their primary form of defense, all spitting cobras are 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. Some non-spitting cobras and vipers have been noted to spit occasionally. Certain, predominantly non-spitting, Asian cobras have the spitting tendency. 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. It has been reported that several viper species (notably the Mangshan Pitviper) may "fling" or even spit venom forward in a spray when threatened. These sprays are often very consistent. [READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE]

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