Episode 286 – King Cobra

“…and today we’re talking about the cold-blooded king of the jungle. But more on that later.”

Everyone knows that a true king must wear a crown. In the jungles of Southeast Asia, the kingly crown isn’t a mane but a hood. The King Cobra is an infamous monarch who uses his regal headwear to intimidate foreign powers threatening his domain. But those that don’t respect the crown always respect the bite. And that’s what it takes to maintain the throne in Life, Death, and Taxonomy.


  • King cobras are pretty big snakes with drab green scales and cream-colored stripes
    • As juveniles, their scales are black and yellow
  • They have rounded noses and perpetually angry eyes, which have round pupils at the center, so most cartoon cobras are lies
  • But their most characteristic trait is their trademark hood, two scaly flaps that can flare out from either side of their neck, making them one of the most intimidating snakes out there, and by design.

Measure Up

Welcome to the beloved Measure Up segment. The official listener’s favorite part of the show! The part of the show when we present the animal’s size and dimension in relatable terms through a quiz that’s fun for the whole family. It’s also the part of the show that’s introduced by you when you send in audio of yourself saying, singing, or chittering the words Measure Up into ldtaxonomy at gmail dot com. We don’t have a new Measure Up intro.


  • 3.18 to 4 m (10.4 to 13.1 ft) and a maximum record of 5.85 m (19.2 ft)
  • How many king cobras go into the distance the Bell P-63 Kingcobra could fly in an hour?
  • Hint: The Bell P-63 Kingcobra was a fighter aircraft developed by the United States in 1942. It never saw combat use by the U.S. Air Force, because it had poor performance in high altitudes. The engine was behind the cockpit because the designers put a 22mm cannon in the nose. However, the Soviet Union said, “sure, we’ll take it,” so we gave it to them.
  • 169,694.6 cobras per hour. The plane reached speeds of 421 mph (678 km/h).


  • 13 pounds (5.8 kg)
  • How many cobras go into the weight of a hoplite shield? 
  • Hint: The army of Carthage in the Punic wars was trained similarly to the Greek hoplites, including the Sacred Band of Carthage, which was the army’s most elite unit, supplied by Carthage’s wealthiest families. 
  • 1.3 cobras. The shield was between 14 and 18 pounds. They were pretty much carrying a full cobra and then some on their arms. 

Fast Facts

  • Range: Lives in Southeast Asia from East India to Malaysia
  • Diet: Apex predator that mainly eats other snakes and lizards, including venomous snakes like other cobras, kraits, and pit vipers.
  • Behavior: 
    • Cobras make nests out of dried leaves at the base of trees and lay up to over 40 eggs, which hatch after about 100 days
    • The little snakelings are just as venomous as their parents, and they are actually more dangerous due to being more nervous and aggressive. 
    • They live for about 20 years in the wild unless some superstitious Chinese shaman kills them and grinds it up into a powder that gives you super strength as well as the ability to lick your own elbows.
    • It uses its tongue to catch chemical scents and search for food.
      • The tongue is forked since each end collects its own chemical information, so they work in stereo, making it like having binocular smision. This is true of most snakes
      • They can also sense vibrations to track moving prey
    • Also like most snakes, It usually swallows its prey whole, dislocating its jaw to swallow things bigger than its head

Major Fact: Hood Habits

For the most part, King Cobras avoid conflict, especially with humans and large predators. They tend to remain placid and run away if they can. They can slither up to 12 mph.

They can become extremely aggressive when defending a nest, and they may strike quickly and repeatedly without too much warning.

Otherwise, they reserve aggression for when they are cornered or otherwise abused.

When startled, they can lift up to a third of their body up off the ground. But this isn’t just posturing. People often misjudge what a safe distance is when a cobra is reared up, because even in this position, they can advance forward and strike.

However, they typically give a few warnings before they strike, including their famous hood.

The cobra hood isn’t just skin folds. It’s actually ribs.

To truly appreciate how it works, you have to look at a diagram but many strips of muscle and the rib bones intertwine so the muscles can pull the ribs out.

In addition to the hood, they also hiss very loudly, which is called a growling hiss. They can hiss in fairly low frequencies, close to that of a low-talking man. They found that they have tracheal diverticula, which act as resonating chambers for low-frequency sounds.

If you ignore the warning signs, you might get bit. They have an extremely dangerous neurotoxin, which can easily be fatal to humans. After a bite, it can take as little as 30 minutes to turn fatal in humans.

However, king cobra bites are fairly uncommon. The most common human bite victim is a snake charmer.

Ending: So puff yourself up, flare your hood, and stand your ground like Floridians—I mean king cobras here in LDT.