A brilliant display of colors is a characteristic feature of the red spitting cobra. However, be warned! When threatened, it spits venom which is aimed at the attacker’s eyes. Learn more about this interesting species in this AnimalSake article.
Did You Know?
The color of the red spitting cobra depends on its place of origin. The specimens from northern Tanzania and southern Kenya are orange-red in color with a broad throat band which is dark blue or black in color, while those in other locations might be gray or yellow in color.
One of the most beautiful and bright-colored species of cobra are the red spitting cobras (Naja pallida). They have been recognized as an individual species since 2003. Prior to that, it was considered as a subspecies of the Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica).
Though they are called red spitting cobras, they show different color variations, like gray, yellow, orange, pink, or brown. The most distinguishing feature of the red spitting cobra is the dark-colored band seen around its throat. We will learn some more interesting facts about these snakes in this article.
› The red spitting cobra is a medium-sized cobra. The length of an adult may range between 2.3 and 4 feet. However, in rare cases, some are found to measure up to 4.9 feet in length. The distinguishing throat band fades, and the color may also change in adults. True red species turn reddish brown with age.
› The snake’s body is slightly flattened down, tapered, and somewhat slender with a tail that is medium in length. The head looks distinct from the neck and is flattened. The canthus is distinct, while the snout is rounded. The dorsal scales on the body are strongly oblique in pattern.
Distribution and Habitat
› The red spitting cobras are found only in Africa. The distribution of these cobras ranges from northern Tanzania through Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, and southern Egypt. They are mostly found in semidesert and dry savannah regions of East Africa. They are commonly seen around oases in deserts.
› The red spitting cobras are fast, alert, and speedy snakes. They are aggressive, and when disturbed, lift about two-thirds of their body vertically above the ground. They erect their hood and spit venom, aiming at the attacker’s or predator’s eyes. This is an excellent defense mechanism, as the venom affects the vision of the attacker which gives it a chance to escape. They may spray jets of venom several times until the attacker retreats. This venom can cause pain and lead to eye blindness.
› The red spitting cobras are active at night. During the day, they hide in old logs, mounds, holes, or other types of ground cover. It has been observed that juveniles are more active during the day.
› They hunt by injecting the venom in their prey, which instantly paralyzes and kills their prey.
› Red spitting cobras are carnivorous, and their prey include lizards, frogs, small mammals, and birds and their eggs. Like most cobras, they exhibit cannibalism and eat other snakes. Scientists believe that this practice is the reason why juveniles are more active during the day, as it gives them protection against adults who forage at night.
› The venom of the red spitting cobras contains cytotoxins that destroy tissues and neurotoxins which paralyze the swallowing and breathing muscles of their prey.
› The red spitting cobra can accurately spit the venom up to a distance of 8 feet. They squeeze the muscles in their venom gland (a modified salivary gland). This pressure causes venom to be sprayed in certain geometric patterns so that the venom is targeted at the eyes of the predator. It may cause a burning sensation, leading to temporary or permanent blindness.
› The venom does not affect the skin. However, if it comes in contact with any cuts or wounds, it may prove hazardous.
› If sprayed by the venom of the red spitting cobra, immediately wash your eyes and seek medical help. The bite of the red spitting cobra causes severe pain around the wound and may cause numbness in the lips and tongue.
› The female lays around 6 to 15 eggs in a burrow or rotting vegetation. The offspring are able to bite and independently take care of themselves.