All members of the genus Naja are cobras, but not all cobras are classified within this genus. The genera Pseudohaje, Hemachatus, Ophiophagus and Boulengerina are also composed of species known as cobras. The number of species in Naja considerably outweighs the combigned total of the other four genera.
These snakes are quite widespread, and various species can be found in most of Africa, as well as Southern Asia, and Indonesia. At one point all Asian cobras were thought to be subspecies of Naja naja, but this view has been rejected by the scientific community. Unlike the boas and pythons Naja snakes are quite slender, and do not reach a huge size, although many species are up to 2 metres long. The largest cobra, the King Cobra is not actually in this genus.
All members of the Naja genera have certain characteristics in common, beyond those of their higher taxonomic classifications. The most important of these is the hood. Muscular contraction can alter the position of the ribs at the top of the neck, flattening and broadening out that part of the snake. Coiling up, spreading the hood and raising the head is a typical defensive action cluster for cobras. The hood is not spread when the snake is hunting.
Being members of the elapid family all members of Naja are venomous. They have fixed fangs that deliver a primarliy neurotoxic venom, which is employed both when hunting, or in defense. The venom of these snakes is very potent, and can quite easily cause death in humans. Some species can also spit their venom as a defensive measure, usually at the eyes of a potential agressor.
The following species are classified within this genus:
- Naja annulifera: Snouted Cobra
- Naja atra: Chinese Cobra
- Naja haje: Egyptian Cobra
- Naja kaouthia: Monocled Cobra
- Naja katiensis: West African Brown Spitting Cobra
- Naja mandalayensis: Burmese Spitting Cobra
- Naja melanoleuca: Forest Cobra
- Naja mossambica: Mozambique Spitting Cobra
- Naja naja: Indian Cobra
- Naja nigricollis: Black-necked Spitting Cobra
- Naja nivea: Cape Cobra
- Naja oxiana: Central Asian Cobra
- Naja pallida: Red Spitting Cobra
- Naja philippinensis: Phillipine Cobra
- Naja sagittifera: Andaman Cobra
- Naja samarensis: Visayan Cobra
- Naja siamensis: Indochinese Spitting Cobra
- Naja sputatrix: Malayan Spitting Cobra
- Naja sumatrana: Equatorial spitting cobra
Snake: Chris Mattison
Collins Gem snakes guide