The king cobra is an elapid found predominantly in forests from India through Southeast Asia. This species is the world’s longest venomous snake, with a length up to 18.5 to 18.8 ft. Despite the word “cobra” in its common name, this snake is not a member of the Naja genus, which contains most cobra species, but the sole member of its own genus. It preys chiefly on other snakes and occasionally on some other vertebrates, such as lizards and rodents. The king cobra is considered to be a dangerous snake and has a fearsome reputation in its range, although it typically avoids confrontation with humans if possible. It is also considered culturally significant and has many superstitions around it.
A king cobra, like other snakes, receives chemical information via its forked tongue, which picks up scent particles and transfers them to a special sensory receptor located in the roof of its mouth. This is akin to the human sense of smell. When the scent of a meal is detected, the snake flicks its tongue to gauge the prey’s location; it also uses its keen eyesight, intelligence, and sensitivity to earth-borne vibration to track its prey. Following envenomation, the king cobra will begin to swallow its struggling prey while its toxins begin the digestion of its victim. King cobras, like all snakes, have flexible jaws. The jaw bones are connected by pliable ligaments, enabling the lower jaw bones to move independently. This allows the king cobra to swallow its prey whole, as well as letting it swallow prey much larger than its head. King cobras are able to hunt throughout the day, and it is rarely seen at night, leading most herpetologists to classify it as a diurnalspecies.