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King Cobra
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah
Binomial name
Ophiophagus hannah
Cantor, 1836
     Distribution of the King Cobra

The King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the world's longest venomous snake, with a length up to 6.096 m (20 ft).[1] This species is widespread throughout Southeast Asia and parts of India, and is found mostly in forested areas. King Cobra is fierce, agile and can produce large amount of potent venom in a single bite. It is one of the most dangerous and feared Asiatic snakes. [2]

Contents

Profile

The King Cobra is a large and powerful snake, averaging 3.6–4 m (12–13 feet) in length and typically weighing about 6 kg (13.2 lb). A particularly large specimen was kept captive at the London Zoo and grew to 5.7 m (18.8 ft) before being euthanized upon the outbreak of World War II.[3] Despite their large size, King Cobras are fast and agile.

Characteristics

The skin of this snake is either olive-green, tan, or black and it has faint, pale yellow cross bands down the length of the body. The belly is cream or pale yellow, and the scales are smooth. Juveniles are shiny black with narrow yellow bands(can be mistaken for a Banded Krait but readily identified with its expanded hood). The head of a mature snake can be quite massive and bulky in appearance, though like all snakes, they can expand their jaws to swallow large prey items. It has proteroglyph dentition, meaning it has two short, fixed fangs in the front of the mouth which channel venom into the prey like hypodermic needles. The male is larger and thicker than the female. The average lifespan of a King Cobra is about 20 years.

Identification

Actually the King cobra is not a kind of cobra at all; it belongs to its own genus instead of the Naja genus. It can be identified from other cobras by its size and the pattern on its neck. King cobras are larger than other cobras, and the stripe on its neck is like the symbol "^" instead of a double or single eye(s) shape that may be seen in other cobras.

Habitat

The King Cobra is distributed across South and South-east Asia, but is not common. It lives in dense highland forests,[1][4], preferring areas dotted with lakes and streams. King Cobra populations have dropped in some areas of its range because of the destruction of forests, but despite this the snake is not listed by the IUCN as in danger of becoming extinct. It is, however, listed as an Appendix II Animal within CITES.[5]

Scalation of the King Cobra

Behavior

King Cobras, like other snakes, receive chemical information (“smell”) via their forked tongues, which pick up scent particles and transfer them to a special sensory receptor (Jacobson's Organ) located in the roof of its mouth.[1] When the scent of a meal has been detected, the snake will flick its tongue to gauge the prey's direction (the twin forks of the tongue acting in stereo); it will also rely on its keen eyesight (King Cobras are able to detect moving prey almost 100 m [300 feet] away), intelligence[6] and sensitivity to earth-borne vibration to track its prey.[7] Following envenomation, the King Cobra will begin to swallow its struggling prey while its toxins begin the digestion of its victim.[1] King Cobras, as with all other snakes, do not have rigidly fixed jaws. Instead, the jaw bones are connected by extremely pliable ligaments, enabling the lower jaw bones to move independently of each other.[1] Like other snakes, the King Cobra does not chew its food, instead it swallows its prey whole. The expansion of the jaw enables the snake to swallow prey much larger than its head.[1]

King Cobras are able to hunt at all times of day, although it is rarely seen at night, leading most herpetologists to classify it as a diurnal species.[1][8]

When threatened, King Cobras raise up one-third of their body, flattening the neck (which can be the girth of an adult's forearm), showing the fangs and hissing loudly. They are easily irritated by closely approaching objects or sudden movements. King cobras attack quickly and the strike distance can be as far as 7 feet, people can easily misjudge the safe distance. King Cobras can deliver more than one bite in a single attack when feeling concern. Also, they will have a strong hold when they do bite.[9]

If a King Cobra encounters a natural predator, such as the mongoose, which has some resistance to the neurotoxins,[10] the snake generally tries to flee. If unable to do so, it forms the distinctive cobra hood and emits a high-pitched hiss, sometimes with feigned closed-mouth strikes. These efforts usually prove to be very effective, especially since the King Cobra is more dangerous than other mongoose prey as well as being much too large for the small mammal to kill with ease.

Diet

King cobra's genus name, Ophiophagus, literally means "snake-eater", and its diet consists primarily of other snakes, including rat snakes, sizeable pythons and even other venomous snakes (including kraits, cobras and smaller members of its own species)[8][11]. When food is scarce, King Cobras may also feed on other small vertebrates such as lizards, birds, and rodents. In some cases, the cobra may “constrict” its prey, like birds and larger rodents using its muscular body, though this is uncommon.[1][11] After a large meal the snake may live for many months without another one because of its slow metabolic rate.[1] The King Cobra's most common meal is the Ratsnake. This leads King Cobras near human settlements.

Venom

The venom of King Cobra is primarily neurotoxic but also contains cardiotoxic[8]. It is composed mostly of proteins and polypeptides. When biting, venom is forced through the snake's half-inch (1.25 cm) fangs and into the wound. It will soon attack the victim's central nervous system and induces severe pain, blurred vision, vertigo, drowsiness, and paralysis.[12] Envenomation progresses to cardiovascular collapse, and the victim falls into a coma. Death soon follows because of respiratory failure. In the past, the LD50 of King Cobra’s venom was treated as 1.7 mg/kg (which is one of the least toxic elapids.) However, this is not always true. According to the recent toxinology study, the LD50 of Chinese King Cobra venom is 0.34 mg/kg [13]. This shows that actually King Cobra can be more venomous than most of the other species with its range, like chinese cobra[14]. A part from this, King Cobra is also capable of delivering larger quantities of venom than most other venomous snakes. It injects 380-600 mg of venom in a single bite. This is enough to kill 20-40 grown men or even an elephant. One bite from a King Cobra can cause death within 15 minutes for a human[13]. However, death usually occurs between 30–45 minutes[14][12][15].The mortality rate from a bite can be over 75%[8][16], or only 33%, depending upon treatment details. It is regarded as one of the deadliest snakes in the world.[14]

There are two types of antivenom made specifically to treat King Cobra envenomations. The Red Cross in Thailand manufactures one, and the Central Research Institute in India manufactures the other; however, both are made in small quantities and are not widely available.[17] Ohanin, a protein component of the venom, causes hypolocomotion and hyperalgesia in mammals.[18] Other components have cardiotoxic,[19] cytotoxic and neurotoxic effects.[20]

Reproduction

The female King Cobra is a very dedicated parent. Before she is ready to lay her eggs, she uses the coils of her long body to gather a big mound of leaf litter. She deposits 20–40 eggs into the mound, which acts as an incubator. The female stays with her eggs and guards the mound tenaciously, rearing up into a threat display if any large animal gets too close.[21]

Inside the mound that the female has built the eggs are incubated at a steady 28℃. When the eggs start to hatch, instinct causes her to leave the nest and find prey to eat so that she does not eat her young.[22] The baby King Cobras can have a length of 55 cm, and have already developed potent venom which is as deadly as that of an adult.

Other culture

In Burma, King Cobras are often used by female snake charmers.[11] The charmer is usually tattooed with three pictograms using an ink mixed with snake venom; superstition holds that it protects the charmer from the snake.[11] The charmer kisses the snake on the top of its head at the end of the show.[11]

Related species

The King Cobra belongs to the family Elapidae. There are over 200 species of elapid found around the world, except Antarctica and Europe. All are venomous and have short, fixed fangs (proteroglyphs), but may differ widely in habits, behaviour and appearance. Four better known species of the Elapidae are the Coral Snake, Death Adder, Black mamba, and of course, the King Cobra.

Gallery

References

  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i Mehrtens, John (1987). Living Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling. ISBN 0806964618. 
  2. ^ A Fleld Guide to the Venomous Land Snakes of Hong Kong. Hong Kong: Cosmos Books Ltd. ISBN 9882113265. 
  3. ^ Wood, The Guinness Book of Animal Facts and Feats. Sterling Pub Co Inc (1983), ISBN 978-0851122359
  4. ^ Miller, Harry (September 1970), "The Cobra, India’s 'Good Snake'", National Geographic 20: 393–409 
  5. ^ "CITES List of animal species used in traditional medicine". http://www.cites.org/eng/com/aC/17/E17i-05Rev.doc. Retrieved 2007-09-01. 
  6. ^ Philadelphia Zoo - King cobra
  7. ^ Taylor, David (1997), King Cobra., http://www.nationalgeographic.com/kingcobra/index-n.html, retrieved 2007-09-08 
  8. ^ a b c d Capula, Massimo; Behler (1989). Simon & Schuster's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of the World. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671690981. 
  9. ^ "King Cobra". http://drdavidson.ucsd.edu/Portals/0/snake/Ophiopha.htm. 
  10. ^ Dr. Zoltan Takacs. "Why the cobra is resistant to its own venom". http://zoltantakacs.com/zt/sc/naja.shtml. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  11. ^ a b c d e Coborn, John (October 1991). The Atlas of Snakes of the World. New Jersey: TFH Publications. pp. 30, 452. ISBN 978-0866227490. 
  12. ^ a b Freiberg, Dr. Marcos; Walls (1984). The World of Venomous Animals. New Jersey: TFH. ISBN 0876665679. 
  13. ^ a b Snake of medical importance. Venom and research group. 
  14. ^ a b c Tun-Pe, Tun-Pe, Warrell DA, Tin-Myint (March 1995). "King cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) bites in Myanmar: venom antigen levels and development of venom antibodies". Toxicon 33 (3): 379–82. PMID 7638877. 
  15. ^ "MSN Encarta: King Cobra". MSN Encarta. Archived from the original on 2009-10-31. http://www.webcitation.org/5kwsGkvxq. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  16. ^ "Ophitoxaemia (venomous snake bite)". http://www.priory.com/med/ophitoxaemia.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  17. ^ "Munich AntiVenom Index:Ophiophagus hannah". Munich Poison Center. MAVIN (Munich AntiVenom Index). 01/02/2007. http://www.toxinfo.org/antivenoms/indication/OPHIOPHAGUS_HANNAH.html. Retrieved 2007-09-02. 
  18. ^ Pung, Y.F., Kumar, S.V., Rajagopalan, N., Fry, B.G., Kumar, P.P., Kini, R.M. 2006 Ohanin, a novel protein from king cobra venom: Its cDNA and genomic organization. Gene 371 (2):246–256
  19. ^ Rajagopalan, N., Pung, Y.F., Zhu, Y.Z., Wong, P.T.H., Kumar, P.P., Kini, R.M. 2007 β-Cardiotoxin: A new three-finger toxin from Ophiophagus hannah (King Cobra) venom with beta-blocker activity. FASEB Journal 21 (13):3685–3695
  20. ^ Chang, L.-S., Liou, J.-C., Lin, S.-R., Huang, H.-B. 2002Purification and characterization of a neurotoxin from the venom of Ophiophagus hannah (king cobra). Biochemical and Biophysical Research Communications 294 (3):574–578
  21. ^ Extraordinary Animals: An Encyclopedia of Curious and Unusual Animals. Westport, Conn.Greenwood Press. ISBN 9780313339226.
  22. ^ National Geographic Program 17 May 2009


King Cobra
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah
Binomial name
Ophiophagus hannah
Cantor, 1836
File:Distribution O.
     Distribution of the king cobra
Synonyms

Genus-level:

The king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is the world's longest venomous snake, with a length up to 5.6 m (18.5 ft).[1] This species is widespread throughout Southeast Asia and parts of India, and is found mostly in forested areas. The king cobra is fierce, agile, and can deliver a large quantity of highly potent venom in a single bite. It is one of the most dangerous and feared Asiatic snakes.[2]

Contents

Profile

The king cobra is a large and powerful snake, averaging 3.6–4 m (12–13 feet) in length and typically weighing about 6 kg (13.2 lb). A particularly large specimen was kept captive at the London Zoo, and grew to 5.7 m (18.8 ft) before being euthanized upon the outbreak of World War II.[3] Despite their large size, king cobras are fast and agile.

Characteristics

The skin of this snake is either olive-green, tan, or black, and it has faint, pale yellow cross bands down the length of the body. The belly is cream or pale yellow, and the scales are smooth. Juveniles are shiny black with narrow yellow bands (can be mistaken for a banded krait, but readily identified with its expanded hood). The head of a mature snake can be quite massive and bulky in appearance, though like all snakes, they can expand their jaws to swallow large prey items. It has proteroglyph dentition, meaning it has two short, fixed fangs in the front of the mouth which channel venom into the prey like hypodermic needles. The male is larger and thicker than the female. The average lifespan of a king cobra is about 20 years.

Identification

The king cobra is the sole member of genus Ophiophagus, while most other cobras are members of the genus Naja. They can be identified from other cobras by size and hood marks. King cobras are larger than other cobras, and the stripe on the neck is like the symbol "^" instead of a double or single eye(s) shape that may be seen in most of the other cobras. A foolproof method of identification if the head is clearly visible is the presence of a pair of large scales known as occipitals, at the back of the top of the head. These are behind the usual "nine-plate" arrangement typical of colubrids and elapids, and are unique to the king cobra.

Scalation

Dorsal scales: midbody 15 rows; Ventral scales: Males 235-250, females 239-265; Tail: Subcaudal scales single or paired in each row, 83-96 in males and 77-98 in females.[2]

Habitat

The king cobra is distributed across South and Southeast Asia, but is not common. It lives in dense highland forests,[1][4], preferring areas dotted with lakes and streams. King cobra populations have dropped in some areas of its range because of the destruction of forests, but despite this, the snake is not listed by the IUCN as in danger of becoming extinct. It is, however, listed as an Appendix II Animal within CITES.[5]

File:Ophiophagus
Scalation of the King Cobra

Behavior

King cobras, like other snakes, receive chemical information (“smell”) via their forked tongues, which pick up scent particles and transfer them to a special sensory receptor (Jacobson's organ) located in the roof of its mouth.[1] When the scent of a meal is detected, the snake flicks its tongue to gauge the prey's location (the twin forks of the tongue acting in stereo); it also uses its keen eyesight (king cobras are able to detect moving prey almost 100 m [300 feet] away), intelligence[6] and sensitivity to earth-borne vibration to track its prey.[7] Following envenomation, the king cobra will begin to swallow its struggling prey while its toxins begin the digestion of its victim.[1] King cobras, like all snakes, have flexible jaws. The jaw bones are connected by pliable ligaments, enabling the lower jaw bones to move independently. [1] Like all snakes, the king cobra swallows its prey whole. The expansion of the jaw enables the snake to swallow prey much larger than its head.[1]

King cobras are able to hunt at all times of day, although it is rarely seen at night, leading most herpetologists to classify it as a diurnal species.[1][8]

Defense

The king cobra is a fierce and highly aggressive snake.[9] When threatened, it raises up the anterior portion of its body, flattening the neck, showing the fangs and hissing loudly. (Bioacoustic analysis of the "growl" of the king cobra has shown that it differs significantly from other snakes. Generally a typical snake hiss has a broad-frequency span (~3,000 to 13,000 Hz) with a dominant frequency near 7,500 Hz, whereas the "growl" of the king cobra consists of frequencies below 2,500 Hz, with a dominant frequency near 600 Hz.)[10] It is easily irritated by closely approaching objects or sudden movements. The king cobra attacks quickly, and the strike distance is about 7 feet; people can easily misjudge the safe distance. The king cobra may deliver multiple bites in a single attack, or bite and hold on.[11] Although it is undoubtedly a very dangerous snake, it prefers to escape unless it is cornered or provoked. [9]

If a king cobra encounters a natural predator, such as the mongoose, which has some resistance to the neurotoxins,[12] the snake generally tries to flee. If unable to do so, it forms the distinctive cobra hood and emits a hiss, sometimes with feigned closed-mouth strikes. These efforts usually prove to be very effective, especially since it is more dangerous than other mongoose prey, as well as being much too large for the small mammal to kill with ease.

Diet

King cobra's genus name, Ophiophagus, literally means "snake-eater", and its diet consists primarily of other snakes, including rat snakes, sizeable pythons and even other venomous snakes (including kraits, cobras and smaller members of its own species).[8][13] When food is scarce, they may also feed on other small vertebrates, such as lizards, birds, and rodents. In some cases, the cobra may “constrict” its prey, such as birds and larger rodents, using its muscular body, though this is uncommon.[1][13] After a large meal, the snake may live for many months without another one because of its slow metabolic rate.[1] The king cobra's most common meal is the ratsnake; this leads them near human settlements.

Venom

The venom of the King Cobra is primarily neurotoxic, but also contains cardiotoxic compounds.[8] It is composed mostly of proteins and polypeptides. During a bite, venom is forced through the snake's half-inch (1.25 cm) fangs and into the wound, and quickly attacks the victim's central nervous system, and induces severe pain, blurred vision, vertigo, drowsiness, and paralysis.[14] Envenomation progresses to cardiovascular collapse, and the victim falls into a coma. Death soon follows due to respiratory failure.

In the past, the LD50 of its venom was treated as 1.6 mg/kg to 1.8 mg/kg (which is one of the least toxic elapids). However, a recent toxicology study shows that the LD50 of Chinese King Cobra venom is 0.34 mg/kg.[15] The statistics prove the King Cobra can actually be more venomous than most of the other venomous snakes with its range, such as many Naja species (for example the Chinese Cobra which with an LD50 of 0.53 mg/kg).[16] The King Cobra is also capable of delivering larger quantities of venom than most other snakes, injecting a 380-600 mg dose in a single bite. This quantity is enough to kill 20-40 grown men or even an adult elephant. One bite can cause the death of a healthy adult human within 15 minutes,[15] but death usually occurs between 30-45 minutes.[14][16][17] The mortality rate from a bite can be over 75%,[8][18] or only 33%, depending upon treatment details. It is regarded as one of the deadliest snakes in the world.[16][19]

There are two types of antivenom made specifically to treat King Cobra envenomations. The Red Cross in Thailand manufactures one, and the Central Research Institute in India manufactures the other; however, both are made in small quantities and are not widely available.[20] Ohanin, a protein component of the venom, causes hypolocomotion and hyperalgesia in mammals.[21] Other components have cardiotoxic,[22] cytotoxic and neurotoxic effects.[23]

Reproduction

The female king cobra is a very dedicated parent. Before she is ready to lay her eggs, she uses the coils of her long body to gather a big mound of leaf litter. She deposits 20–40 eggs into the mound, which acts as an incubator. The female stays with her eggs and guards the mound tenaciously, rearing up into a threat display if any large animal gets too close.[24]

Inside the mound the female has built, the eggs are incubated at a steady Template:Convert/°C. When the eggs start to hatch, instinct causes her to leave the nest and find prey to eat so she does not eat her young.[25] The baby king cobras can have a length of 45 to 55 centimeters (18 to 22 in). They are highly aggressive and have already developed potent venom, which is as deadly as that of an adult.

Other culture

In Burma, king cobras are often used by female snake charmers.[13] The charmer is usually tattooed with three pictograms using an ink mixed with snake venom; superstition holds that it protects the charmer from the snake.[13] The charmer kisses the snake on the top of its head at the end of the show.[13]

Related species

The king cobra belongs to the family Elapidae. There are over 200 species of elapids found around the world, except Antarctica and Europe. All are venomous and have short, fixed fangs (proteroglyphs), but may differ widely in habits, behaviour and appearance. Some other well-known species of the Elapidae are the coral snake, the death adder and the black mamba.

Gallery

References


Simple English

King Cobra
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Ophiophagus
Species: O. hannah
Binomial name
Ophiophagus hannah
Cantor, 1836
File:Distribution O.
     Distribution of the King Cobra

The King Cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) is a species of the Elapidae family. It is the world's longest venomous snake with a length that can be as large as 5.6 m (18.5 ft).[1][2] This species is found in a number of areas, found throughout south-eastern Asia and into Pakistan and India. Its genus name, Ophiophagus, literally means "snake-eater", and its diet primarily consists of other snakes, including larger pythons and even smaller members of its own species. The venom of the King Cobra is primarily neurotoxic, and the snake is fully capable of killing a human with a single bite.[3] The mortality rate can be as high as 75% without antivenin.[3][4][5]

Other websites

References

  1. "Cobra". Encyclopædia Britannica. http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/123394/cobra. Retrieved 2010-10-10. 
  2. Mehrtens, John (1987). Living Snakes of the World. New York: Sterling. ISBN 0806964618. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 Capula, Massimo; Behler (1989). Simon & Schuster's Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians of the World. New York: Simon & Schuster. ISBN 0671690981. 
  4. "Ophitoxaemia (venomous snake bite)". http://www.priory.com/med/ophitoxaemia.htm. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 
  5. Sean Thomas. "One most Dangerous Snakes in the World". http://www.seanthomas.net/oldsite/danger.html. Retrieved 2007-09-05. 

Other websites

For more multimedia, go to Category:Ophiophagus hannah.
Wikispecies has an entry on: Ophiophagus hannah








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