Cobras are venomous snakes of family Elapidae, of several genera. They generally inhabit tropical and desert regions of Asia and Africa. Cobras kill their prey, usually small rodents and birds, by injecting a neurotoxin through their hollow fangs. The King Cobra notably eats other snakes; it feeds almost entirely on other snakes, even venomous ones (ophiophagy). The spitting cobra can also incapacitate larger would-be predators by delivering irritating venom to their eyes. Cobras come in varying colors from black or dark brown to yellowish white. The (jet) black cobra found in North India is considered a sub-species of cobra. The cobra's most recognizable feature is its hood, a flap of skin and muscle behind the head which it can flare, perhaps for the purpose of making it appear bigger and more threatening to predators. which may also serve to confuse enemies. The cobra's predators include the mongoose and possibly some raptors. The word "cobra" came from Spanish or Italian and is short for "cobra capello" = "snake with a hat" or similar (referring to the hood); it probably came from Latin coluber = "snake". The cobra is important in Hindu symbolism.
The Egyptian cobra (naja haje) (asp) is a type of venomous snake native to North Africa and the Middle East. Its bite is extremely poisonous, and it is ten times more than the Indian cobra. The Egyptian cobra is the most common cobra in Africa and it has caused the most deaths. It lives from the Sahara Desert to the Syrian Desert. The Egyptian cobra, like all other cobras, raises its hood when in danger. The red Mozambique spitting cobra:
When cobras spit, there's not a dry eye in the house
Spitting cobras optimise their accuracy by rapid head movements The red Mozambique spitting cobra stiffens, fixing its gaze on the victim's face, which is moving backwards and forwards in front of it. For several seconds it remains erect like this; then its head flashes forwards. For an instant the fangs in front of its pale pink throat are visible in its wide-open mouth, as they squirt the venom at high pressure towards the victim. On the plastic visor two red spiral patterns appear. The eyes behind it look surprisingly unperturbed. "I sprayed the visor beforehand with rhodamine," Katja Tzschtzsch calmly explains, "It's a pigment which dyes liquids red. This makes the traces of venom easier to see." In her undergraduate dissertation the trainee teacher investigated what spitting cobras aim at when spitting. "In the literature it often says: they aim at the eyes," her supervisor Dr. Guido Westhoff, junior lecturer in Professor Horst Bleckmann's team, explains. "However, up to now nobody has investigated it." The cocktail of toxins partly consists of nerve poisons, but also contains components which are harmful to tissue. Through a narrow channel in their fangs the snakes can spray the liquid at high pressure similar to a bullet in the barrel of a gun. If they manage to hit an eye, the sensitive cornea reacts with severe stinging pain. In the worst case these burns can ultimately lead to blindness. As guinea pigs Katja Tzschtzsch used four Mozambique and six black-necked spitting cobras from the animal house in Schloss Poppelsdorf. In her experiments she either stood face to face with them herself protected only by a plastic visor or she used photos. In addition, for both species she recorded the spitting process using a high-speed video camera. "The snakes really do spit only at moving faces," was her first finding; "movements involving the hand elicited no response from any of the snakes." Only two cobras reacted to the photos. These even spat when Katja touched up the photo, taking out one eye. And even when both eyes were removed, one of the...