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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. 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.
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Copyright © 1996-2009, Eric H. Chudler, University of Washington