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New Cobra species discovered!! [Naja ashei]

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Jordi J
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 10:16 pm    Post subject: New Cobra species discovered!! [Naja ashei] Reply with quote

NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC (Washington, DC) 07 December 07 Largest Spitting Cobra Found -- New Species (Nicholas Wadhams)
Nairobi, Kenya: A new species of spitting cobra—now the largest in the world—has been named by researchers in Kenya and the United Kingdom.
The newly anointed Ashe's spitting cobra, or large brown spitting cobra (Naja ashei), can reach lengths of more than 9 feet (274 centimeters) and is believed to deliver more venom with a single bite than any other cobra on the planet.
The aggressive reptile was previously identified as a brown-colored variant of the black-necked spitting cobra, though researchers had long suspected that it merited its own species. Now blood and tissue analysis have confirmed this theory to be true.
The snake dwells in the dry lowlands of north and east Kenya, as well as in Uganda and Ethiopia.
It is named after James "Jimmy" Ashe, a prominent herpetologist who founded the Bio-Ken snake farm and research center in Watamu, Kenya, where the snake is commonly found. Bio-Ken milks snakes for their venom and sends it to labs to develop antivenin.
The findings were first published earlier this year in the animal taxonomy magazine Zootaxa by researchers at the University of Wales and the Biodiversity Foundation for Africa in Buluwayo, Zimbabwe.
But they gained wider notice on Friday when the researchers announced the new species through the nonprofit conservation group WildlifeDirect.
Royjan Taylor, the director of Bio-Ken, said the paper's authors had asked him to wait several months to give time for other herpetologists to challenge their findings. None did.
Spitting cobras eat eggs, carrion, snakes, lizards, and birds. Their venom has two uses: to kill prey and for defense. The reptiles can spray venom several yards and usually aim for the attacker's eyes, giving the snake the best chance for escape.
Snake experts had long believed that the brown spitting cobra was fundamentally different from the black-necked spitting cobra.
Other variants of the black-necked spitting cobra fought harder when handled and took longer to settle down in captivity. Once in their cages, they were picky eaters.
But the Ashe's cobra was less resistant to handling, generally less alert, and less picky. And they were bigger.
"There's a butcher here in Watamu who gives us chicken heads, and [the Ashe's cobra will] eat five or six chicken heads at once," Taylor said.
"That's very unlikely for the spitting cobra group."
Ashe's cobras are not the only kinds of snakes that get lumped together.
Researchers suspect that many different species of snake, such as the highly venomous puff adders, have been grouped into species that need greater differentiation.
The greatest significance of the new finding may be for residents along Kenya's Indian Ocean coast, who are at risk of being bitten by the new cobra.

Its venom is similar to the species it was previously grouped with, but it can deliver about twice the amount of venom with a single bite.
That means that doctors previously treating bites from what turned out to be Ashe's cobras were only administering half the necessary dose of antivenin to victims.
New developments in antivenin may be made from studying the chemical makeup of the new cobra's venom, researchers add.
"The fact that this is a separate species raises a question of the efficacy of existing antivenins," said David Warrell, a herpetologist at the University of Oxford, who was not among the co-authors.
"It hasn't been studied at all, so that's a complete mystery."
Taylor of Bio-Ken says he hopes the new species will bring in more funding for research.
He wants to study the snake's venom to see how it differs from that of other spitting cobras, and to find out what role it can play in antivenin production.
The snake is not thought to be endangered, but WildlifeDirect officials said its discovery should draw attention to the animals that are being lost to human encroachment.
"A new species of giant spitting cobra is exciting and reinforces the obvious," WildlifeDirect Chairman Richard Leakey said in a news release. (Richard Leakey is a past grantee of the National Geographic Society, which owns National Geographic News.)
"There have to be many other unreported species—but hundreds are being lost as their habitats disappear under the continued mismanagement of our planet."

December 7, 2007—Africa's Naja ashei snake (pictured) is not only the world's newest snake species—it's also the largest spitting cobra, scientists with the conservation nonprofit WildlifeDirect announced today.

Blood and tissue samples helped confirm what some snake experts have long believed: that these massive, aggressive, extremely venomous snakes—which can grow to more than 9 feet (274 centimeters) long—form a separate species.

Commonly known as Ashe's spitting cobra, the new species is named after one such expert: the late James Ashe, the founder of the Bio-Ken Snake Farm research center in Watamu, Kenya. Ashe believed that this coastal snake was different from any other.

Naja ashei takes its place among the 30 or so known cobra species, including the king cobra, which is the world's largest venomous snake.

Anthony Childs, a guide and collector at eastern Kenya's Bio-Ken Snake Farm, moves in to capture an Ashe's spitting cobra, of the newly identified Naja ashei species.

The Naja ashei, also known as a large brown spitting cobra, can kill up to 20 people with one bite. Researchers at Bio-Ken milked one specimen and drew 6.2 milliliters of venom, which is among the largest amounts of venom ever extracted from a snake at one time, they said in December 2007.

They have also seen the snake devour rabbits, 5-foot-long (152-centimeter) puff adder snakes, and 2-foot-long (60-centimeter) monitor lizards.

Royjan Taylor (right) and a colleague inspect an Ashe's spitting cobra (Naja ashei) at the Bio-Ken Snake Farm in Watamu, Kenya.

Previously the snake was believed to be a brown-skinned version of the black-necked spitting cobra. Thanks to the new identification, announced December 7, 2007, snake experts say that they will have an easier time developing antivenin for Naja ashei bites.

The reptile is not believed to be endangered. But Taylor said that it is threatened by human encroachment and that conservation efforts must be made.

"Although I am a naturalist and conservationist who is passionate about all wildlife, my heart goes out to the reptiles that are often misunderstood—especially snakes."[/img]
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:05 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Interesting article and pics. Thanks for posting!
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PostPosted: Sat Dec 08, 2007 11:16 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Laughing Thought it was a pic of Dan in his new job for a minute!
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PostPosted: Mon Dec 10, 2007 6:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

lol you beat me posting this by days!
Looks like an awesome cobra.
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