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Temporal range: Miocene-Holocene
Indian cobra (Naja naja), the genera species typica
Scientific classification e
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Suborder: Serpentes
Family: Elapidae
Genus: Naja
Laurenti, 1768
Type species
Coluber naja
Linnaeus, 1758

Naja is a genus of venomous elapid snakes known as cobras ("true cobras"). Members of the genus Naja are the most widespread and the most widely recognized as "true" cobras. Various species occur in regions throughout Africa, Southwest Asia, South Asia, and Southeast Asia. Several other elapid species are also called "cobras", such as the king cobra (Ophiophagus hannah) and the rinkhals (Hemachatus haemachatus), but neither are true cobras. They are not true cobras in that they do not belong to the genus Naja, but instead each belong to monotypic genera Hemachatus (the rinkhals)[1] and Ophiophagus (the king cobra/hamadryad).[2][3]

Until recently, the genus Naja had 20 to 22 species, but it has undergone several taxonomic revisions in recent years, so sources vary greatly.[4] Wide support exists, though, for a 2009 revision[5] that synonymised the genera Boulengerina and Paranaja with Naja. According to that revision, the genus Naja now includes 38 species.[6]

Indian cobra (Naja naja)
Dissected head of Naja melanoleuca showing (A) the fangs and (B) the venom gland


The origin of this genus name is from the Sanskrit nāga (with a hard "g") meaning "snake". Some hold that the Sanskrit word is cognate with English "snake", Germanic: *snēk-a-, Proto-IE: *(s)nēg-o-,[7] but this is unlikely. Mayrhofer calls this etymology "unglaubhaft ", "not credible", and suggests a more plausible etymology connecting it with Sanskrit nagna, "hairless, naked".[8]


Naja species vary in length and most are relatively slender-bodied snakes. Most species are capable of attaining lengths of 1.84 m (6.0 ft). Maximum lengths for some of the larger species of cobras are around 3.1 m (10 ft), with the forest cobra arguably being the longest species.[9] All have a characteristic ability to raise the front quarters of their bodies off the ground and flatten their necks to appear larger to a potential predator.


Most venomous Naja species
Rank Species LD50 SC
1 N. oxiana 0.10 mg/kg[10]
2 N. philippinensis 0.14 mg/kg[11][12]
3 N. samarensis 0.21 mg/kg[13]
4 N. melanoleuca 0.225 mg/kg[10][14]
5 N. siamensis 0.25 mg/kg[10]
6 N. atra 0.28 mg/kg[10][15]
7 N. naja 0.29 mg/kg[10][15]
8 N. nivea 0.37 mg/kg[15]
9 N. kaouthia 0.47 mg/kg[10]
10 N. sumatrana 0.60 mg/kg[16]

All species in the genus Naja are capable of delivering a fatal bite to a human. Most species have strongly neurotoxic venom, which attacks the nervous system, causing paralysis, but many also have cytotoxic features which cause swelling and necrosis, and have a significant anticoagulant effect. Some also have cardiotoxic components to their venom.

Several Naja species, referred to as spitting cobras, have a specialized venom delivery mechanism, in which their front fangs, instead of releasing venom through the tips (similar to a hypodermic needle), have a rifled opening in the front surface which allows the snake to propel the venom out of the mouth. While typically referred to as "spitting", the action is more like squirting. The range and accuracy with which they can shoot their venom varies from species to species, but it is used primarily as a defense mechanism. Once sprayed onto a victim's skin, the venom acts as a severe irritant. If it is introduced to the eyes, it can cause a severe burning sensation and temporary or even permanent blindness if not cleaned out immediately and thoroughly.

The Caspian cobra (N. oxiana) of Central Asia is the most venomous Naja species. The average subcutaneous LD50 for N. oxiana in mice is 0.18 mg/kg, and the lowest reported value for N. oxiana is 0.10 mg/kg subcutis,[10] while the Philippine cobra (N. philippinensis) has an average murine LD50 of 0.2 mg/kg subcutis.[12] The lowest value reported for the Philippine cobra is 0.14 mg/kg subcutis.[11] In mice, the intravenous LD50 for the Caspian cobra is 0.037 mg/kg,[14] and for the Philippine cobra it is 0.05 mg/kg.[17] The Caspian cobra is the most venomous species of cobra in the world (to laboratory mice). The crude venom of N. oxiana produced the lowest known lethal dose (LCLo) of 0.005 mg/kg, the lowest among all cobra species ever recorded, derived from an individual case of poisoning by intracerebroventricular injection.[18] After the Caspian and Philippine cobras, the forest cobra (N. melanoleuca) has an LD50 of 0.225 mg/kg subcutis,[13][14] followed by the Samar cobra (N. samarensis), which has a value of 0.23 mg/kg subcutis.[13] The water cobras of Central Africa are also highly venomous. The murine intraperitoneal LD50 of Naja annulata and Naja christyi venoms were 0.143 mg/kg and 0.120 mg/kg, respectively.

The Naja species are a medically important group of snakes due to the number of bites and fatalities they cause across their geographical range. They range throughout Africa (including some parts of the Sahara where Naja haje can be found), Southwest Asia, Central Asia, South Asia, East Asia, and Southeast Asia. Roughly 30–40% of bites by some cobra species are dry bites, thus do not cause envenomation (a dry bite is a bite by a venomous snake which does not inject venom).[citation needed]

Many factors influence the differences in cases of fatality among different species within the same genus. Among cobras, the cases of fatal outcome of bites in both treated and untreated victims can be quite large. For example, mortality rates among untreated cases of envenomation by the cobras as a whole group ranges from 6.5–10% for N kaouthia[19] to about 70% for N. oxiana.[20] Mortality rate for Naja atra is between 15 and 20%,[19] 5–10% for N. nigricollis,[21] 50% for N. nivea,[19] 65–70% for N. melanoleuca, 20–25% for N. naja,[22] and 50–60% for N. samarensis.[23] In cases where victims of cobra bites are medically treated using normal treatment protocol for elapid type envenomation, differences in prognosis depend on the cobra species involved. The vast majority of envenomated patients treated make quick and complete recoveries, while other envenomated patients who receive similar treatment result in fatalities. The most important factors in the difference of mortality rates among victims envenomated by cobras is the severity of the bite and which cobra species caused the envenomation. The Caspian cobra (N. oxiana) and the Philippine cobra (N. philippinensis) are the two cobra species with the most toxic venom based on LD50 studies on mice. Both species cause prominent neurotoxicity and progression of life-threatening symptoms following envenomation. Death has been reported in as little as 30 minutes in cases of envenomation by both species. N. philippinensis's purely neurotoxic venom causes prominent neurotoxicity with minimal local tissue damage and pain[24] and patients respond very well to antivenom therapy if treatment is administered rapidly after envenomation. Envenomation caused by N. oxiana is much more complicated. In addition to prominent neurotoxicity, very potent cytotoxic and cardiotoxic components are in this species' venom. Local effects are marked and manifest in all cases of envenomation - severe pain, severe swelling, bruising, blistering, and tissue necrosis. Renal damage and cardiotoxicity are also clinical manifestations of envenomation caused by N. oxiana, though they are rare and secondary.[25] The untreated mortality rate among those envenomed by N. oxiana approaches 80%, the highest among all species within the genus Naja.[20] Antivenom is not as effective for envenomation by this species as it is for other Asian cobras within the same region, like the Indian cobra (N. naja) and due to the dangerous toxicity of this species' venom, massive amounts of antivenom are often required for patients. As a result, a monovalent antivenom serum is being developed by the Razi Vaccine and Serum Research Institute in Iran. Response to treatment with antivenom is generally poor among patients, so mechanical ventilation and endotracheal intubation is required. As a result, mortality among those treated for N. oxiana envenomation is still relatively high (up to 30%) compared to all other species of cobra (<1%).[26]



Naja (Naja) naja

Naja (Naja) kaouthia

Naja (Naja) atra

Naja (Naja) mandalayensis

Naja (Naja) siamensis

Naja (Naja) sputatrix


Naja (Afronaja) pallida

Naja (Afronaja) nubiae

Naja (Afronaja) katiensis

Naja (Afronaja) nigricollis

Naja (Afronaja) ashei

Naja (Afronaja) mossambica

Naja (Afronaja) nigricincta


Naja (Boulengerina) multifasciata

Naja (Boulengerina) christyi

Naja (Boulengerina) annulata

Naja (Boulengerina) melanoleuca


Naja (Uraeus) nivea

Naja (Uraeus) senegalensis

Naja (Uraeus) haje

Naja (Uraeus) arabica

Naja (Uraeus) annulifera

Naja (Uraeus) anchietae

The genus contains several species complexes of closely related and often similar-looking species, some of them only recently described or defined. Several recent taxonomic studies have revealed species not included in the current listing in ITIS:[4]

  • Naja anchietae (Bocage, 1879), Anchieta's cobra, is regarded as a subspecies of N. haje by Mertens (1937) and of N. annulifera by Broadley (1995). It is regarded as a full species by Broadley and Wüster (2004).[27][28]
  • Naja arabica Scortecci, 1932, the Arabian cobra, has long been considered a subspecies of N. haje, but was recently raised to the status of species.[29]
  • Naja ashei Broadley and Wüster, 2007, Ashe's spitting cobra, is a newly described species found in Africa and also a highly aggressive snake; it can spit a large amount of venom.[30][31]
  • Naja nigricincta Bogert, 1940, was long regarded as a subspecies of N. nigricollis, but was recently found to be a full species (with N. n. woodi as a subspecies).[32][33]
  • Naja senegalensis Trape et al., 2009, is a new species encompassing what were previously considered to be the West African savanna populations of N. haje.[29]
  • Naja peroescobari Ceríaco et al. 2017, is a new species encompassing what was previously considered the São Tomé population of N. melanoleuca.[34]
  • Naja guineensis Broadley et al., 2018, is a new species encompassing what were previously considered to be the West African forest populations of N. melanoleuca.[6]
  • Naja savannula Broadley et al., 2018, is a new species encompassing what were previously considered to be the West African savanna populations of N. melanoleuca.[6]
  • Naja subfulva Laurent, 1955, previously regarded as a subspecies of N. melanoleuca, was recently recognized as a full species.[6]

Two recent molecular phylogenetic studies have also supported the incorporation of the species previously assigned to the genera Boulengerina and Paranaja into Naja, as both are closely related to the forest cobra (Naja melanoleuca).[32][35]

Wallach et al.[5] suggested recognition of four subgenera within Naja: Naja for the Asiatic cobras, Boulengerina for the African forest, water and burrowing cobras, Uraeus for the Egyptian and Cape cobra group and Afronaja for the African spitting cobras.


Image[4] Species[4] Authority[4] Subsp.*[4] Common name Geographic range
N. anchietae Bocage, 1879 0 Anchieta's cobra (Angolan Cobra) Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, eastern Zimbabwe
Boulengerina annulata 2.jpg N. annulata (Buchholz and Peters, 1876) 1 Banded water cobra Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), the Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Rwanda, and the province of Cabinda in Angola
Snouted Cobra, Naja annulifera, Waterberg, South Africa.jpg N. annulifera Peters, 1854 0 Snouted cobra Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, South Africa, Swaziland, Zambia, Zimbabwe
N. antiqua Rage, 1976 0 Moroccan cobra Miocene-aged strata of Morocco
N. arabica Scortecci, 1932 0 Arabian cobra Oman, Saudi Arabia, Yemen
N. ashei Wüster and Broadley, 2007 0 Ashe's spitting cobra (giant spitting cobra) southern Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, eastern Uganda
Naja atra (03).jpg N. atra Cantor, 1842 0 Chinese cobra southern China, northern Laos, Taiwan, northern Vietnam
N. christyi (Boulenger, 1904) 0 Congo water cobra the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), the Republic of Congo, and the province of Cabinda in Angola
N. guineensis Broadley, Trape, Chirio, Ineich &Wüster, 2018 0 Black forest cobra Ghana, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, Togo
Naja haje (1).jpg N. haje Linnaeus, 1758 0 Egyptian cobra Tanzania, Kenya, Somalia, Ethiopia, Uganda, South Sudan, Sudan, Cameroon, Nigeria, Niger, Burkina Faso, Mali, Senegal, Mauritania, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, and Egypt
N. iberica Szyndlar, 1985 Spanish cobra Miocene-aged strata of Spain
NajaKaouthia.jpg N. kaouthia Lesson, 1831 0 Monocled cobra Bangladesh, Bhutan, Burma, Cambodia, southern China, eastern India, Laos, northwestern Malaysia, Nepal, Thailand, southeastern Tibet, Vietnam
Naja Katiensis.jpg N. katiensis Angel, 1922 0 Mali cobra (Katian spitting cobra) Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Gambia, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo
N. mandalayensis Slowinski & Wüster, 2000 0 Mandalay spitting cobra (Burmese spitting cobra) Myanmar (Burma)
Cobra des forêts.jpg N. melanoleuca Hallowell, 1857 0 Forest cobra Angola, Benin, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Equatorial Guinea, Gabon, Nigeria
Mozambique spitting cobra (Naja mossambica).jpg N. mossambica Peters, 1854 0 Mozambique spitting cobra extreme southeastern Angola, Botswana, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, northeastern Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania (including Pemba Island), Zambia, Zimbabwe
N. multifasciata Werner, 1902 0 Many-banded cobra Cameroon, Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Gabon
Indiancobra.jpg N. naja (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Indian cobra (spectacled cobra) Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka
N. nana Collet & Trape, 2020 0 Dwarf water cobra Democratic Republic of Congo
Naja nigricincta nigricincta.jpg N. nigricincta Bogert, 1940 1 Zebra spitting cobra Angola, Namibia, South Africa
Naja nigricollis (Warren Klein).jpg N. nigricollis Reinhardt, 1843 0 Black-necked spitting cobra Angola, Benin, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire) (except in the central region), Congo, Ethiopia, Gabon, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Mauritania, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Rwanda, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Tanzania, Somalia, Togo, Uganda, Zambia
Naja nivea.jpg N. nivea (Linnaeus, 1758) 0 Cape cobra (yellow cobra) Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, South Africa
N. nubiae Wüster & Broadley, 2003 0 Nubian spitting cobra Chad, Egypt, Eritrea, Niger, Sudan
Naja oxiana (6).jpg N. oxiana (Eichwald, 1831) 0 Caspian cobra Afghanistan, northwestern India, Iran, Kyrgyzstan, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Red Spitting Cobra.jpg N. pallida Boulenger, 1896 0 Red spitting cobra Djibouti, Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, Tanzania
N. peroescobari Ceríaco, Marques, Schmitz & Bauer, 2017 0 São Tomé forest cobra, cobra preta São Tomé and Príncipe (São Tomé)
Naja philippinensis.png N. philippinensis Taylor, 1922 0 Philippine cobra the Philippines (Luzon, Mindoro)
N. romani Hofstetter, 1939 0 European cobra Miocene-aged strata of France, Germany, Austria, Romania, and Ukraine
N. sagittifera Wall, 1913 0 Andaman cobra India (the Andaman Islands)
Naja samarensis.jpg N. samarensis Peters, 1861 0 Samar cobra the Philippines (Mindanao, Bohol, Leyte, Samar, Camiguin)
N. savannula Broadley, Trape, Chirio & Wüster, 2018 0 West African banded cobra Benin, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Chad, Gambia, Ghana, Guinea, the Ivory Coast, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal, Togo
N. senegalensis Trape, Chirio & Wüster, 2009 0 Senegalese cobra Benin, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Guinea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal
Naja siamensis by Danny S..jpg N. siamensis Laurenti, 1768 0 Indochinese spitting cobra Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Vietnam
Naja sputatrix.jpg N. sputatrix F. Boie, 1827 0 Javan spitting cobra Indonesia (Java, the Lesser Sunda Islands, East Timor)
N. subfulva Laurent, 1955 0 Brown forest cobra Angola, Burundi, Cameroon, the Central African Republic, Chad, the Republic of Congo, the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Zaire), Ethiopia, Kenya, Malawi, Mozambique, Nigeria, Rwanda, Somalia, South Africa, South Sudan, Tanzania, Uganda, Zambia, Zimbabwe
Equatrorial-spitting-cobra 001.jpg N. sumatrana Müller, 1887 0 Equatorial spitting cobra Brunei, Indonesia (Sumatra, Borneo, Bangka, Belitung), Malaysia, the Philippines (Palawan), southern Thailand, Singapore
  • Not including the nominate subspecies

T Type species[2]


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