It may sound funny and ridiculous but it is true – there are several cobras that spit out venom on anything they look upon as threat. So you may be thinking, ‘don’t they bite?’ or ‘can it kill a person by spitting venom on him or her?’ We intend to find out answers to all your questions in this article titled 30 interesting spitting cobra facts. Let’s get started!
Interesting Spitting Cobra Facts: 1-10
1. The name ‘spitting cobra’ is somewhat misleading. These snakes don’t really spit out venom. The act of spitting involves puckering of lips and then blowing out the sputum (in this case, it is venom and not sputum). Now, these cobras actually spray out venom instead of spitting out.
2. The venom is sprayed out directly from the fangs in distinctive patterns and the sprayed venom is directed towards the face of the target, especially the eyes.
3. These cobras have small holes in front of their fangs which allow them to spray out the venom.
4. When these cobras find a predator or a threat in front of them, they squeeze the venom sacs’ muscles and force the venom out from their fang holes.
5. The holes present on the fangs of these cobras are of teardrop shape. This shape in particular allow spraying of a narrow venom stream.
6. These snakes are capable of spraying venom with extreme accuracy up to 6.6 feet. To make things worse, they are capable of spraying their venom in 40 consecutive times within a very short time span.
7. These snakes are not very strong and muscular and cannot kill a prey by strangulation and asphyxiation. Their fangs are also small and hence, if they want to kill a prey, they need to bite and hold on to the prey for a long time. In case the prey is big enough and manages to get lose, it can attack the snake. To prevent this from happening, these snakes need to first neutralize their prey and they do so by temporarily blinding them by spitting venom.
8. When these snakes face predators or threats that are bigger than them, they need enough time to run away. They will again spray venom on the predators’ faces and temporarily blind them. This will give them enough time to escape.
9. The venom of spitting cobras is slow acting and hence, attempts of killing a prey only by injecting venom inside a prey’s body is not effective. They prey can easily get away from their grasp, outrun them or even turn back and attack them.
10. The venom of these snakes is so mild that they don’t cause any harm when it falls on skin.
Interesting Spitting Cobra Facts: 11-20
11. The venom is strong enough to affect the eyes. When the venom falls on eyes, it causes temporary blindness through chemical conjunctivitis.
12. Because the venom can affect only the eyes and not the skin, these cobras never spit the venom on any other moving part of the body. They will only target moving faces.
13. Studies conducted by Dr. Bruce Young, Dr. Guido Westhoff and Melissa Boetig from University of Massachusetts revealed that these cobras don’t spit out venom in a single stream.
14. The study reported that the cobras make a special type of neck and head movement and spray the venom in geometric oval shapes.
15. These snakes spray out venom in geometric shapes because they anticipate head movement of the potential victims and in order to increase the accuracy of the spray, they create the oval shape.
16. Though slow acting, the venom of spitting cobras is actually a combination of cytotoxin and neurotxin which is capable of destroying blood cells and tissues.
17. When the toxin hits the eyes, it immediately causes a stinging sensation. The capillaries present in conjunctiva of eyes then absorb in the venom leading to cornea irritation followed by tissue damage. This tissue damage causes temporary blindness.
18. Spitting cobra venom can lead to permanent blindness in situations of heavy damage of tissues.
19. The sprayed venom, though ineffective on skin, can actually cause trouble if it falls on cuts or wounds. The venom can enter the blood stream and destroy blood cells. The problem is that the venom is slow acting and hence, there may not be any immediate impact but eventually lead to systemic problems.
20. As far as diet of spitting cobras is concerned, the primary foods for these snakes include birds and their eggs, lizards, rats, chicken, other smaller snakes and often insects.
Interesting Spitting Cobra Facts: 21-30
21. Southeast Asia and southern Africa are the natural habitats of these snakes.
22. They are more widespread in grasslands, fields and forests but they are often found close to human settlements in southeast Asia.
23. In southern Africa they are commonly found in semi desert areas as well as in dry savanna.
24. There are seven major species found in Africa of which, Red Spitting Cobra, Ashe’s Spitting Cobra, Mozambique Spitting Cobra, Black-Necked Spitting Cobra and Zebra Spitting Cobra are the most notable ones.
25. In Asia too there are 7 different species found. Equatorial Spitting Cobra, Philippine Cobra, Indochinese Spitting Cobra and Indonesian Spitting Cobra are the most notable ones.
26. Ashe’s Spitting Cobra is the world’s largest spitting cobra species with the average length of these snakes reaching up to 6.5 feet. However, the longest of this species ever recorded was 9 feet long.
27. The smallest species of all spitting cobras is the Mozambique Spitting Cobra with an average length of 3 feet.
28. The most potent venom of all spitting cobras is that of the Philippine Cobra. It is the second-most toxic of all cobra venoms known to man. This venom still takes quite a long time to kill a human. It takes about 30 minutes for the venom of Philippine Cobra to kill an adult human.
29. The venom of Philippine Cobra is pure neurotoxin. Cytotoxins are not present in its venom.
30. Spitting cobras are not the only ones that spit out venom. The Chinese Mangshan pit viper is also known to spit venom although, its spitting is not as accurate as that of spitting cobras.