Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 195, Issue 8, pp 753–757 | Cite as

Spitting cobras adjust their venom distribution to target distance

  • Ruben Andres Berthé
  • Stéphanie de Pury
  • Horst Bleckmann
  • Guido Westhoff
Original Paper


If threatened by a human, spitting cobras defend themselves by ejecting their venom toward the face of the antagonist. Circulating head movements of the cobra ensure that the venom is distributed over the face. To assure an optimal distribution of the venom, the amplitudes of head movements should decrease with increasing target distance. To find out whether cobras (Naja pallida and N. nigricollis) adjust their spitting behavior according to target distance we induced spitting from different distances and analyzed their spitting patterns. Our results show that the spray pattern of spiting cobras is not fixed. Instead the snake matches its venom distribution to the size of the target independent of target distance.


Snake Spitting cobra Defensive behavior Venom Ethology 


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruben Andres Berthé
    • 1
  • Stéphanie de Pury
    • 1
  • Horst Bleckmann
    • 1
  • Guido Westhoff
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Comparative Neurophysiology, Institute of ZoologyUniversity BonnBonnGermany

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