King Cobra

From Academic Kids

King Cobra
King Cobra
King Cobra
Scientific classification
Binomial name
Ophiophagus hannah
(Cantor, 1836)

The King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is a large venomous snake of the family Elapidae.

The King Cobra is the largest venomous snake in the world. It can reach a length of up to 5.5 metres (although around 3.5 metres is more common) and can weigh up to 10 kilograms (22 pounds). The skin is black, greenish or brown, often with white or yellow bars; while the snake is young these lines are more distinct. It is a native of South-east Asia, inhabiting the forests of India, Malaysia and the Philippines, but not Sri Lanka. Its main diet is other snakes, but if it is desperate it will hunt for other small vertebrates. It only hunts during the day, by sight, and thus is classified as diurnal. As it lacks cutting teeth, it swallows its prey whole as is usual with snakes.

The King Cobra is one of the few snakes that builds a nest and lays eggs and sits there until just before they hatch. Since King Cobras are natural snake eaters, nature makes the mother King Cobra leave the young before they hatch, so as to prevent her from eating them. The female makes its nest by taking dead bamboo leaves on the ground and scooping them up with her large body. Though many people say that there is nothing more aggressive than a mother King Cobra protecting her nest, it is an old wives' tale, and with a little coaxing it will leave the nest site. It lays somewhere between 20 and 40 eggs in the spring, two months after mating; the eggs hatch within 60 to 80 days. The hatchlings are between 45 and 50 centimetres long, and marked with black and white banding, and have lethal venom already. The King Cobra female leaves just before the eggs hatch, so that when the eggs hatch they will not eat their young, mainly because the adult has not eaten for two months. The King Cobra male is similarly unique in that it guards the nest until the young hatch, patrolling a large area around the nest for threats.

Though it is called a cobra, it is in a different genus. The scientific name Ophiophagus is derived from the Greek for "snake-eater". Though King Cobras are widely spread throughout India and southern Asia, there are no known subspecies.

The King Cobra has one of the longest lifespans among snakes (20 years). It is noted for its outstanding intelligence compared to that of other cobra species and other snakes in general. They also have excellent vision making it an expert hunter.

Drop for drop the King Cobra's venom is less lethal than many snakes including black mamba and common cobra, but the volume (7 ml) per bite is so overwhelming it can kill even an elephant or 20-30 humans. Currently anti-venom for its bite is not available readily. Its venom is a neurotoxin. It can stand in an upright threating posture with its hood as high as 6 feet and even move in an upright stance; it can stare a human in the eye.

Adult King Cobras have no natural predators, though mongooses are known to attack young ones and steal eggs. However the greatest threat has been from human encroachment and the resultant habitat loss has resulted in dwindling numbers of this majestic snake.

External link

fi:Kuningaskobra nl:Koningscobra sl:Kraljeva kobra


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