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How spitting cobras spew venom!

They spit on elephants, hyenas, just about anything that passes by that's big enough to trample on them or even eat them. Find out more about how spitting cobras do it!

tech reviews Updated: May 30, 2009 21:41 IST

Spitting cobras are known for their exceptional ability to spew venom in the face of the victims. Now, researchers have uncovered how they do it.

The team from University of Bonn, Germany have found that snakes adjust the trajectory of their squirts to deliver venom right to the faces of animals that come closer.

"We know they spit on elephants, hyenas, just about anything that passes by that''s big enough to trample on them or even eat them," New Scientist quoted Lead researcher Guido Westhoff, a herpetologist at the University of Bonn, Germany as saying.

The researchers conducted the new study with the help of spitting cobras, Naja pallida and Naja nigricollis.
Westhoff provided graduate students with large plastic visors as they approached the two snakes.

It is well known that cobras can shoot venom up to 3 metres, however, in the new study, they didn''t spit until the students came closer between 6 and 88 centimetres.

The researchers recorded the distance between the cobra and its would-be victim and estimated the trajectory of the venom using trigonometry.

They found that cobras reduced the vertical angles of their venomous spits and widen the spread of the spray as the victim’s distance from them increases.

Westhoff said this keeps the target of the spit relatively constant in size and roughly equal to the dimensions of a human head.