Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Indian Spectacled Cobra | Naja naja

Labels: Indian Cobra, Spectacled Cobra, Naag

Binomial name: Naja naja
Common name: Indian Spectacled Cobra

Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Naja
Species: N. naja


Distinguishing Features: Medium to large sized; smooth, shiny scales; wide head and neck; wide black band on the underside of neck; characteristic hood marking on top of the neck.

Average Length: 1 m; At Birth: 25 cm; Maximum: 2 m (male).

Description: The Spectacled Cobra is a smooth-scaled snake with black eyes and, wide neck and head. Its colour varies from black or dark brown to yellowish white. Their body is usually covered with a speckled white or yellow pattern. Their well-known hood marking of the classic design shows a connected pair of rings. Sometimes this marking may be altogether absent. Cobras are often confused with Indian Rat Snakes. The Spectacled Cobra is the most widely distributed of the 3 sub-species of cobras in India and is one of the big four deadly snakes.

Distribution: Spectacled Cobras are found all over India, up to 4000 m above sea level.

Habitat: Rice growing areas, where plentiful of rats occur for their feast, is the common place for this snake. However, they are quite adaptable and can also be found in very dry parts of the country. Their preferred haunts include granaries, termite mounds, earth dams and rock piles. They usually multiply where rats are abundant.

Habits: Cobras are usually shy in nature and live out of man’s sight. Spreading their neck ribs, startling the intruder with bright eyes on the hood are the warning mechanisms of Spectacled Cobras. They hiss by a sharp ejection of air, when even more agitated. Some cobras in the North-eastern India can spit their venom for a short distance. They are active in the rains, like other snakes.

Young: The females lay about 12-30 eggs, usually in a rat hole or termite mound, between May and July. The young resemble the adult perfectly and disperse one or two weeks thereafter. Like many other snakes, cobras may breed more than a year.

Food: Young ones feed on insects, lizards, frogs, toads and small snakes. As they grow, their diet includes rodents, toads, frogs and birds in the order of preference. They normally maintain their grip until the prey is motionless.

Status: Cobras are hunted and killed for their skins. The Government of India has however controlled the export of cobra skins since 1973. Still, few tanneries deal with thousands of skins per day and continue to prosper.

Venom: Cobra venom affects the nervous system leading to respiratory paralysis and cardiac failure and eventually death. Usually less than lethal quantity is injected, however all cobra bites should be treated with immediate effect. Vast research is being done on cobra venom and it is found that small fractions destroy certain cancer cells in mice. Also, effective pain killers like ‘Cobroxin’ and ‘Nyloxin’ are made from cobra venom.

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