Sunday, April 5, 2009

King Cobra III

A couple days after our recent run-in with a king cobra, Pan pulled the snake out of the freezer for a full dissection.

He and his assistants spent a couple hours weighing, measuring, counting rings, extracting venom, and IDing organs. The cobra was likely 2-3 years old—on the cusp of breeding age—was just shy of 2 meters long, weighed 900 g (2 lbs), and had 56 dark bands from head to tail.

Like all king cobras
, it likely fed exclusively on other snakes and may have limited its diet even further to a single species.

At one point Pan entertained thoughts of extracting the cobra's venom and injecting it, bit by bit, into a pig or water buffalo to cultivate antivenom. If someone was then bit on the reserve, they could simply withdraw some blood from the by-then-resistant animal and inject it into the stricken person.—Snake antivenom available in hospitals worldwide is obtained in more or less the same way, by slowly building up venom antibodies in a horse or sheep.