General, Research, Technology

What snakes spit poison and what happens after that?

Millions of people live on our planet withherpetophobia - fear of snakes. And this fear is fully justified, because most of these reptiles are poisonous and at any moment they can inflict a fatal bite. The most recognizable venomous snakes are cobras, because they have a "hood" just below their head. This is the name of the part of the body in which the ribs move apart and significantly change the shape of their body. All cobras are deadly to humans, but before attacking, they scare enemies several times with quick lunges forward. There are also varieties of cobras that, when in danger, can spit poison directly into the eyes of the enemy. It turns out that snakes can let poison in their victims both with a direct bite and at a distance. And, most interestingly, in both cases, the composition of the snake venom is different.

Snakes that can spit venom are cobras

Spitting snakes

Poison-spitting cobras live in Africaand South Africa. In the course of observations, it was found that when attacking at a distance, snakes aim their enemies directly in the eyes. The black-necked cobra (Naja nigricollis), common in Africa, can fire 28 poisonous shots in a row, each of which contains 3.7 milligrams of poison. To spit out venom, snakes tense special muscles near the venom glands. The lethal mixture is emitted from the front of the canines, while the holes in common snakes are located on the bottom of the sharp teeth.

Black-necked cobra

The ability to spit poison appeared in snakes in different waystime and in different parts of our planet. Based on this, scientists believe that their ability did not arise due to the fact that it was passed on by some of the ancestors. The most likely version is that they developed this skill in order to defend themselves against ancient people. The fact is that many monkeys prefer to kill snakes immediately, without waiting for an attack. Moreover, they do this not by direct contact, but by throwing stones or hitting snakes with sticks. The ancient people probably followed the same strategy, which is why the cobras had to develop the poisonous spitting skill.

Snakes have learned to spit poison to protect themselves from people

And in ancient times, people clearly often stumbled uponcobra. This, at least, is evidenced by the discovery of the remains of snakes near the habitats of ancient people. Most likely, at first, our ancestors quickly dealt with reptiles. But over millions of years, cobras have learned to defend themselves, staying at a great distance from enemies. When cobra venom enters the skin, redness and severe pain occurs, and the eyes become cloudy and a person may even go blind. Sometimes blindness is temporary, but in some cases it is for life.

See also: What is the difference between pythons and boas?

What is snake venom made of?

Snake venom is a mixture of proteins andother substances that help them quickly stop a prey suitable for eating. But the poison of cobras is also needed to protect against enemies. Snake venom usually contains many neurotoxins that block the transmission of commands from the brain to the muscles. As a result, the bitten organisms die of paralysis. After all, they not only lose the ability to walk - along with all the muscles, the heart also stops working. But in the venom of cobras there are also substances referred to as cytotoxins. Once in a living organism, these toxins begin to destroy cells.

For all its danger, snake venom is often used to create medicines

According to the World Health Organization,every year 5.8 million people are attacked by snakes. Unfortunately, in 140 thousand cases people cannot be saved and they die. In order to escape from a snakebite, it is very important to have time to go to the hospital for an antidote. But usually snakes bite far from settlements. This is a big problem, so in 2020, scientists from Denmark have developed an antidote that you can carry with you and inject in a timely manner. Even a person who has never held a syringe in his hand can cope with this. But how is this possible? Read in this article.

If you are interested in the news of science and technology, subscribe to our Telegram channel. There you will find announcements of the latest news from our site!

At the moment, scientists are aware of the existencemore than 3600 species of snakes. Some of them are not poisonous, but still pose a great danger to others. For example, in Thailand, you can find the so-called kukri snakes (Oligodon fasciolatus). The body length of these creatures reaches 115 centimeters, but they are not so big. But they must be feared, because they are considered the most cruel of all snakes. Already interested? Then follow this link and read what is the cruelty of these snakes.