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Neuroscience For Kids

Spraying Venom: The Spitting Cobra
March 3, 2009 snake

A large, reptile, capable of shooting a spray of toxic chemicals into the face of its enemy -- is this a creature from the imagination of a science fiction writer? No! It's true!! This reptile is your neighborhood (if you live in parts of Africa) spitting cobra.

The spitting cobra does not actually spit its venom. Rather, the snake sprays its mixture of neurotoxic, tissue-destroying venom from its fangs. snake And with deadly accuracy: the snake aims for the face of its victim and the venom can cause blindness. In 2005, researchers found that black necked spitting cobras and red Mozambique spitting cobras sprayed venom at a moving face (between the eyes), but not at a moving hand. New studies using high-speed photography and recordings from the snake's muscles show that rapid, back and forth rotations of the cobra's head by neck and head muscles are responsible for the toxic spray. Such head movements appear to increase the chances that the eyes of an enemy will be hit by venom.

Did You Know?
  • Ashe's spitting cobra (large brown spitting cobra, Naja ashei) is the largest spitting cobra in the world. This snake can be more than 9 feet (274 centimeters) in length.(Source)
  • Some spitting cobras can spray their venom to a distance of 3 meters (almost 10 feet).

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