Tuesday, June 22, 2010

King Cobra

At maximum lengths of 18 feet, the King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the world's longest venomous snake... though they are not the most deadly. In fact, they don't even seem to make the top ten in regards to most potent venom. But do not underestimate them! A single bite contains about 7ml of neurotoxin which is strong enough to kill an elephant.

Image from Photosfan
King Cobras are the only members of their genus, but they belong to a pretty large family of Elapids which is home to hundreds of venomous snakes from around the world. The King Cobra itself is found in China, India, and South East Asia. They are diurnal, carnivorous reptiles, and are comfortable on land, in trees, and even in water. The King Cobra actually feeds primarily on other snakes, though they will also eat other reptiles, mammals, birds and eggs.

The King Cobra is well known within the context of snake charming. They are able to stand up straight with a third of their entire body length. Cobras do not hear in the same way that we do, so they are not entranced by the actual music. They are most likely drawn by the vibrations and the movement of the flute. The Cobra's ability to stand comes from the way in which they hunt, which involves striking quickly in a downward motion. The King Cobra will also stand and spread its hood when feeling threatened.

King Cobras are unique in that they are the only snake that builds a nest for its eggs. Starting at around age 4 they mate once a year and lay clutches of between 20 and 50 eggs. The females will remain atop the nest, guarding her eggs until they hatch nearly 3 months later. Males will also remain in the vicinity.

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