Journal of Comparative Physiology A

, Volume 199, Issue 5, pp 335–340 | Cite as

Potential targets aimed at by spitting cobras when deterring predators from attacking

  • Ruben Andres Berthé
  • Guido Westhoff
  • Horst Bleckmann
Original Paper

Abstract

When threatened, spitting cobras eject venom towards the face of an aggressor. To uncover the relevant cues used by cobras for face recognition we determined how often artificial targets equipped with or without eyes elicited spitting behavior. In addition, we measured whether and how target shape and size influenced the spitting behavior of cobras. Results show that oval- and round-shaped targets were most effective, while triangles with the same surface area as oval ‘face like’ targets hardly elicited spitting. The likelihood of spitting depended on neither the presence, the spatial arrangement (horizontal or vertical) nor the surface texture (shiny or matt) of glass eyes. Most likely, cobras do not specifically aim at the eyes of an offender but at the center of the body part closest to them. As this is usually the face of an animal, this strategy will result in at least one eye of the offender being hit most of the time.

Keywords

Spitting Cobra Eyes Defensive behavior Venom 

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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Ruben Andres Berthé
    • 1
  • Guido Westhoff
    • 1
  • Horst Bleckmann
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of Comparative NeurobiologyUniversity of Bonn, Institute of ZoologyBonnGermany

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