A dear friend sent me this beautiful picture yesterday evening and I promised to write about it today. Incidentally, as I searched for where I saved the picture, Snakes In The City, anchored by one of the world’s best snakes catcher Simon Keys and his girlfriend, Siouxsie Gillett came in air on National Geographic.
I’ve watched several episodes since the programme began in 2014, learning so much about snakes coupled with my village boy real life encounters and experience with snakes.
Back to the spitting Cobra. Contrary to widely held opinion, the spitted venom is generally harmless on intact mammalian skin (although contact can result in delayed blistering of the area), but can cause permanent blindness if it got into the eye which is basically the target of the snakes; if left untreated it may cause chemosis and corneal swelling, then blindness may occur. Cobras are highly intelligent snakes and they have evolved defence mechanisms over time.
Most spitting cobras’ venoms are significantly cytotoxic, apart from the neurotoxic and cardiotoxic effects typical of other cobra species. Hemotoxic venom acts on the cardiovascular system, including the heart and blood. Neurotoxic venom acts on the nervous system, including the brain. Cytotoxic venom has a localized action at the site of the bite.
The venom sprays out in distinctive geometric patterns when muscles squeeze the glands to squirt it out through forward-facing holes near the tips of the fangs. Individuals of some species of spitting cobras make hissing exhalations/lunging movements of their heads when “spitting” from the tongue.
And it has been argued that such actions assist in propelling the venom, but research does not support the hypothesis that they play any major functional part except possibly enhancing the threatening effect of the behaviour. When cornered, some species “spit” their venom as far as 2 m (6.6 ft).
While spitting typically is their primary form of defense, it needs stressing that they can also bite. All spitting cobras can deliver sizeable venom that is potent enough to kill a man or even a bigger animal in a matter of minutes.