|Monocled cobra showing the O-shaped hood pattern|
Since then, several monocled cobras were described under different scientific names:
- In 1834, John Edward Gray published Thomas Hardwicke’s first illustration of a monocled cobra under the trinomial Naja tripudians var. fasciata.
- In 1839, Thomas Cantor described a brownish monocled cobra with numerous faint yellow transverse stripes and a hood marked with a white ring under the binomial Naja larvata, found in Bombay, Calcutta and Assam.
Several varieties of monocled cobras were described under the binomial Naja tripudians between 1895 and 1913.
- Naja tripudians var. scopinucha 1895
- Naja tripudians var. unicolor 1876
- Naja tripudians var. viridis 1913
- Naja tripudians var. sagittifera 1913
- Naja kaouthia kaouthia – Deraniyagala, 1960
The monocled cobra has an O-shaped, or monocellate hood pattern, unlike that of the Indian cobra. Coloration in the young is more constant. The dorsal surface may be yellow, brown, gray, or blackish, with or without ragged or clearly defined cross bands. It can be olivaceous or brownish to black above with or without a yellow or orange-colored, O-shaped mark on the hood. It has a black spot on the lower surface of the hood on either side, and one or two black cross-bars on the belly behind it. The rest of the belly is usually of the same color as the back, but paler. As age advances, it becomes paler, when the adult is brownish or olivaceous. The elongated nuchal ribs enable a cobra to expand the anterior of the neck into a “hood”. A pair of fixed anterior fangs is present. The largest fang recorded measured 6.78 mm (0.678 cm). Fangs are moderately adapted for spitting. Adult monocled cobras reach a length of 1.35 to 1.5 m (4.4 to 4.9 ft) with a tail length of 23 cm (9.1 in). Many larger specimens have been recorded, but they are rare. Adults can reach a maximum of 2.3 m (7.5 ft) in length.
Monocled cobras tend to have more than one cuneate scale on each side. The shape of the frontal scale is short and square. Ventrals in males range from 170 to 192, in females from 178 to 197. Subcaudals in males range from 48 to 61, in females from 46 to 59.
Distribution and habitat
Monocled cobras are distributed from India in the west through to China, Vietnam and Cambodia, also occurs in the Malay Peninsula and is native to Bangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar, Laos, Nepal, and Thailand.
Monocled cobras can adapt to a range of habitats, from natural to anthropogenically impacted environments. They prefer habitats associated with water, such as paddy fields, swamps, and mangroves, but can also be found in grasslands, shrublands, and forests. It also occurs in agricultural land and human settlements, including cities. They can be found up to elevations of 1,000 m (3,300 ft) above sea level.
Ecology and behaviour
Monocled cobras are terrestrial and most active at dusk and in the evening. In rice-growing areas, they hide in rodent burrows in the dykes between fields and have become semi-aquatic in this type of habitat. Juveniles feed mostly on amphibians, and adults prey on small mammals, snakes and fish. When disturbed they take flight, but they have rarely been observed to spit venom. However, when threatened, they will raise the anterior portions of their bodies, spread their hood, usually hiss loudly, and strike in an attempt to bite and defend themselves.
They are often found in tree holes and areas where rodents are plentiful.
This is an oviparous species. Females lay between 16 and 33 eggs per clutch. Incubation periods range from 55 to 73 days. Egg-laying takes place in January to March. The females usually stay with the eggs. Some collaboration between males and females has been reported in Naja naja x Naja kaouthia - hybrids.
This species has been assessed as Least Concern by IUCN owing to its large distribution, tolerance of a broad range of habitats, including anthropogenically altered environments, and its reported abundance. No major threats have been reported, and the species is not thought to be undergoing a significant population decline. In places the distribution of this species coincides with protected areas, probably providing small safeguards. Monocled cobras are harvested for the skin trade, however, collection from the wild is minimal and not likely to be causing significant population declines. Naja kaouthia is listed on CITES Appendix II.
The median lethal dose is 0.28-0.33 mg/gram of mouse body weight. The major toxic components in cobra venoms are postsynaptic neurotoxins, which block the nerve transmission by binding specifically to the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor, leading to flaccid paralysis and even death by respiratory failure. The major α-neurotoxin in Naja kaouthia venom is a long neurotoxin, α-cobratoxin; the minor α-neurotoxin is different from cobrotoxin in one residue. The neurotoxins of this particular species are weak. The venom of this species also contains myotoxins and cardiotoxins.
In case of intravenous injection the LD50 tested in mice is 0.373 mg/kg, and 0.225 mg/kg in case of intraperitoneal injection. The average venom yield per bite is approximately 263 mg (dry weight).
The monocled cobra causes the highest fatality due to snake venom poisoning in Thailand. Envenomation usually presents predominantly with extensive local necrosis and systemic manifestations to a lesser degree. Drowsiness, neurological and neuromuscular symptoms will usually manifest earliest; hypotension, flushing of the face, warm skin, and pain around bite site typically manifest within one to four hours following the bite; paralysis, ventilatory failure or death could ensue rapidly, possibly as early as 60 minutes in very severe cases of envenomation. However, the presence of fang marks does not always imply that envenomation actually occurred.
In Myanmar (Burma), Maung TM, a 20-year old male was admitted to Insein hospital (near Yangon), within one hour of being bitten by a monocled cobra on the inner side of thigh. In fact he was bitten while squatting to urinate in the field. On admission there was a black patch and gross swelling at the site of the bite. Polyvalent serum, containing anti-viper and anti-cobra, was given intravenously on admission. On the next day the eye lids drooped and he developed signs of respiratory paralysis which demanded immediate tracheostomy and mechanical ventilation. He was again given antivenom with atropine and prostigmine with good response. The drugs were repeated as their actions had been only short lasting. The development of respiratory paralysis after an apparent recovery may indicate that there was a depot of venom at the site of bite from which it was absorbed slowly. This assumption may call for local infiltration. Locally there was extensive necrosis and ulceration requiring skin grafting at a later date.
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