White Cobra

Category: Wildlife

White snakes can suffer from one of two different genetic disorders - they can be albino or leucistic. With leucistic animals, they lose all pigmentation but it can be spotty, with areas of completely normal color and, if the leucistic patch falls over the eye, it is generally blue. With albinism, there is a complete loss of melanin and the eyes are often red or pink from the blood vessels showing through. Either of these disorders can cause extreme problems for a wild reptile and they do not often live to adulthood. They cannot camouflage to protect themselves or to hunt and they cannot effectively regulate their body temperatures using the sun since they so easily sunburn.

White or Albino Cobra

White or Albino Cobra

Scientific & Common Names

Kingdom - Animalia Phylum - Chordata Class - Reptilia Order - Squamata Suborder - Serpentes Family – Elapidae Genus - Naja, Ophiophagus

Common Names – White Cobra, albino cobra, monocled cobra

Characteristics

White cobras will appear no different than any normal colored cobra physically, with the exception of color. Their internal structure, including their venom, will not differ in any way. the lifespan in the wild for a white cobra is unknown, but it is estimated that a white alligator will not live to see its second day. In captivity, the lifespan and behavior of a white cobra differs in no way from any other cobra.

Breeding

Cobras lay eggs and some will create nests while other species will not, but many will protect the eggs during the three month incubation period. The mother leaves the nest immediately as the eggs begin to hatch and the young must fend for themselves. The hatchlings have venom of the same potency as adults and they are more nervous and prone to strike. Since it is rare for a white reptile to survive in the wild to mating age, most white cobras result from two normal colored adults who each carry the recessive gene mating. Only a small percentage of their offspring will them potentially be white.

Behavior

In general, cobras are not overly aggressive and will only strike when threatened. Unlike other snakes with a defensive display, such as rattlesnakes, cobras almost always display their hood before striking. However, due to the amount and toxicity of their venom, any bite is a serious issue. Their main prey items are reptiles (including other snakes, even of their own species), birds, and small mammals. They can become prey to other animals, most famously mongoose and large birds of prey.

History

There is more scientific debate concerning the evolution of venom than of snakes themselves. There are different types - hemotoxins, cytotoxins, and nerotoxins - and many different potencies. There is not even a single delivery system as the giant spitting cobra (Naja ashei) demonstrates, though it only spits in defense and still bites its prey. It is not known if venom evolved independently or if all snakes had a shared venomous ancestor from 100 million years ago. Venom is a complex combination of proteins and enzymes and many snakes use a blend of different types of venom

Present Status

Albino or leucistic reptiles have a low rate of survivability in the wild and will generally only do well in captivity, where they are protected from predators and the sun. Cobras in general are not considered endangered but they are experiencing a great deal of pressure from habitat loss and some hunting.

References

  1. International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN)

  2. The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES)

  3. Snakes: The Evolution of Mystery in Nature (Director's Circle Book of the Associates of the University of California)by Harry W. Greene