King cobra, as the name suggests, is regarded as the king of all snakes. With a bite that can kill an elephant and its impressive appearance, the king cobra is revered and feared throughout its range. It is endemic to India and Southeast Asia where it has inspired numerous folktales. It plays an integral role in indigenous cultures and is even worshipped in parts of its range. Learn some enchanting facts about this magnificent venomous snake, the King Cobra.
Venomous Bite So Intense That It Can Kill An Elephant
Although the king cobra venom is not the most potent among the venomous snakes of the world, the amount of venom injected in one bite is what makes this snake so deadly. The king cobra can inject as much as up to two-tenths of a fluid ounce of venom into its victim. This dose is enough to kill 20 adult human beings or an elephant.
King Cobra Is The World's Longest Venomous Snake
King cobras are huge! Adults of this species can attain lengths of up to 3.18 to 4 m. The longest known specimen has measured 5.85 m.
King Cobra Is India's National Reptile And Features Prominently In Indian Culture
Indian culture is renowned for its reverence of creatures of nature. Indians worship many animals including the deadliest venomous snakes. There are shrines in India dedicated to snakes and festivals celebrating them. The king cobra is also highly revered by the Indians. The snake features prominently in Indian mythology and folklore. King cobra has also been chosen as the national reptile of the country.
King Cobra Is Not A True Cobra
Naja is a genus of venomous elapid snakes that are grouped under the common name cobra. The genus has around 20 to 22 species but due to numerous taxonomic revisions in recent years, the exact number varies by source. However, one thing is clear, despite the word "cobra" in its name, king cobras are not true cobras. They do not belong to the Naja genus but is the sole species of the Ophiophagus genus. Ring-necked spitting cobra of southern Africa is another species which is called cobra but not a member of Naja.
The King Cobra Has A Growling Hiss
Unlike most other snakes, the king cobra is said to growl rather than hiss. Most snakes hiss at a high frequency ranging from 3,000 to 13,000 Hz with a dominant frequency close to 7,500 Hz. However, king cobras are quite the exception as they growl at frequencies lower than 2,500 Hz. They have their dominant frequency close to 600 Hz. The pitch of king cobra growls is closer to that of a human voice. The rat snake also makes similar growls. Investigations have revealed that the king cobras possess tracheal diverticula that operate as low-frequency resonating chambers.
Humans Are Deadlier
Although most of us would dread the deadly king cobra and never approach it intentionally, it is the snakes that should be more wary of us. The king cobra is listed as a Vulnerable species on the IUCN Red List. Populations of the king cobra are threatened by loss of habitat due to deforestation. The snake has also been hunted for meat, skin, and use of body parts in traditional medicines.
King Cobra Is A "Snake-eater"
The generic name of the king cobra "Ophiophagus" means "snake-eater." The diet of this snake primarily consists of other snakes. It predates on a wide variety of snakes, including both venomous and non-venomous ones like true cobras, kraits, pythons, and rat snakes. When food is scarce, it also hunts down lizards, rodents, and birds. After having a large meal, the snake can survive for several months without hunting due to its slow metabolic rate.
The Only Snake That Nests And Has A Dedicated Female Parent
King cobras exhibit a unique behavior not seen in any other snake species. Here, the female scrapes up leaves and other debris to form a mound where she lays her eggs. She stays with her eggs throughout the incubation period and until the eggs hatch. All this while, she fiercely guards her eggs against any approaching threat.
Fascinated by snakes? Learn about the world's most venomous snakes in this article "The Most Venomous Snakes In The World."
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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