This is the king of venomous snakes. Up to 18 feet (5.5 meters) long, the king cobra is extraordinarily fast when it strikes. It can be found around bamboo, mangrove swamps, tea plantations, and forests in India, China and Southeast Asia.
Its signature, fear-inducing mechanism is a hood, a combination of muscle and rib action in the neck that spreads loose skin and makes this reptile look menacing. Its ritual to scare away possible predators is to stand, spread out its hood and hiss loudly. The trick usually works.
Their fangs are about 0.5 inches (1.3 centimeters) long, and unlike vipers, cobras cannot hold their fangs down. But their bite can be powerful. The venom is a neurotoxin that acts on the nervous system and can stop a victim's breathing and heartbeat. And if they're not scary enough on land, these snakes can also climb trees (like many snakes) and are excellent swimmers.
Their size and the amount of venom they produce can be enough to kill an elephant [source: Philadelphia Zoo]. King cobras kill about five humans a year.
This snake has one natural enemy, the mongoose. This small, carnivorous mammal has the speed, agility and fearlessness to bite the back of the cobra's neck.
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