Spitting cobras spray venom in potential attackers eyes to hit their mark

January 23rd, 2009 - 2:25 pm ICT by ANI  

University of Massachusetts

Washington, January 23 (ANI): Spitting cobras have an exceptional ability to maximize their chances of hitting the target by spraying venom into the eyes of potential attackers, according to a study.
Bruce Young, director of the Anatomical Laboratory in the Department of Physical Therapy at the University of Massachusetts, Lowell, says that the name “spitting cobra” is a bit of a misnomer because these snakes do not actually spit venom.
Revealing his findings in the journal Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, the researcher has revealed that muscle contractions squeeze the cobra’’s venom gland, forcing venom to stream out of the snake’’s fangs.
According to him, the muscles can produce enough pressure to spray venom up to six feet.
He says that, to be effective, venom must make contact with an attacker’’s eyes, where it causes severe pain and possibly blindness.
Studies conducted in the past have suggested that cobras hit their targets with alarming frequencynearly 100 percent accuracy from 60 centimeters.
Dr. Young and his colleagues, Melissa Boetig and Dr. Guido Westhoff, claim that they have found the secret to the cobra’’s success.
The researchers say that cobra venom does not hit a victim in one spot, as it lands in complex geometric patterns.
This is no accident, for the patterns are actively produced by the cobra, according to their study.
Using high-speed photography and electromyography (EMG) to detect contractions of head and neck muscles, the research team found that cobras engage these muscles a split second before spitting.
The researchers say that the muscle activity rotates the head, and jerks it from side to side and back again, producing complex venom patterns.
“The venom-delivery system functions to propel the venom forward while the (head and neck) muscles produce rapid oscillations of the head that disperse the venom, presumably maximizing the chance that a portion of the spat venom will contact the eye,” the authors write.
They add that the ability to actively disperse venom means that cobras do not need dead aim on the eyethey just need to be in the ballpark. (ANI)

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