A spitting cobra
is one of several species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...
Cobra is a venomous snake belonging to the family Elapidae. However, not all snakes commonly referred to as cobras are of the same genus, or even of the same family. The name is short for cobra capo or capa Snake, which is Portuguese for "snake with hood", or "hood-snake"...
s 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
Chemosis is the swelling of the conjunctiva. In general, chemosis is a nonspecific sign of eye irritation. The outer surface covering appears to have fluid in it. Often, the eye area swells so much that the eyes become difficult or impossible to close fully. It is usually caused by allergies or...
The cornea is the transparent front part of the eye that covers the iris, pupil, and anterior chamber. Together with the lens, the cornea refracts light, with the cornea accounting for approximately two-thirds of the eye's total optical power. In humans, the refractive power of the cornea is...
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 2 metres (6.6 ft). 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
Hemotoxins, haemotoxins or hematotoxins are toxins that destroy red blood cells , disrupt blood clotting, and/or cause organ degeneration and generalized tissue damage. The term hemotoxin is to some degree a misnomer since toxins that damage the blood also damage other tissues...
effects, along with more typical neurotoxic
A neurotoxin is a toxin that acts specifically on nerve cells , usually by interacting with membrane proteins such as ion channels. Some sources are more general, and define the effect of neurotoxins as occurring at nerve tissue...
effects of other cobra species.
Species of the spitting cobras
- Naja ashei
Naja ashei is an African snake. It is the world's largest species of spitting cobra It is found in the dry lowlands of northern and eastern Kenya and similar habitats in northeastern Uganda, southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia.Its differences to other spitting cobras were realized in the 1960s,...
- Naja katiensis
- Naja mossambica
- Naja nigricollis
Naja nigricollis is a species of spitting cobra found in Sub Saharan Africa. It is feared throughout its range and has the capability of spraying venom at attackers as a defensive mechanism...
- Naja nigricincta
- Naja nubiae
- Naja pallida
- Naja philippinensis
- Naja samarensis
- Naja siamensis
Naja siamensis or the Indo-Chinese Cobra is a species of spitting cobra found in Southeast Asia. It is one of the six spitting cobras found in Asia.-Description:...
- Naja sputatrix
- Naja sumatrana
Other spitting 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
The Rinkhals also called the Ringhals or Ring-necked Spitting Cobra is a venomous elapid species found in parts of southern Africa...
cobra (Hemachatus haemachatus
) is another elapid species, which, while not belonging to the Cobra genus Naja
Naja is a genus of venomous elapid snakes. Although there are several other genera that share the common name, Naja are the most recognized and most widespread group of snakes commonly known as cobras. The genus Naja consists of 20 to 22 species, but has undergone several taxonomic revisions in...
, 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.
- Video of an African Red Spitting Cobra spraying its venom.
- Video of an African Red Spitting Cobra feeding.
- Discovery News Spitting Cobras' Sharp-Shooting Secrets Discovery News