OCT 02, 2018 8:51 PM PDT

Despite Popular Belief, Cobra Cannibalism is Somewhat Common

WRITTEN BY: Anthony Bouchard

You might’ve heard the expression “dog eat dog,” metaphorically, of course; but how about the one that goes: cobra eat cobra? If not, then you’re not alone; citing a study published this week in the journal Ecology, cobra cannibalism could be more frequent than initially thought.

Researchers with the University of the Western Cape allegedly happened upon a particular instance in the Kalahari Desert in which a larger cape cobra (Naja nivea) was devouring a smaller specimen of the same species. Puzzled by what they had witnessed, the researchers hit the books and analyzed a slew of scientific papers concerning cobras.

A cobra in the Kalahari Desert partakes in conspecific cannibalism.

Image Credit: Bryan Maritz

"This work highlights a renewed effort to meaningfully quantify several aspects of snake natural history, especially in poorly studied regions such as Africa," explained study lead author Bryan Maritz. "An improved understanding of snake ecology and feeding, in general, will help to highlight the ecological functional roles that snakes are performing in African ecosystems."

Related: Large new cobra species discovered in West Africa

While snake experts have long known that cobras sometimes feast on snakes of different species in the wilderness, there hasn’t been much exposure to the idea of cobras indulging in conspecific consumption; most observations were written off as one-off occurrences. Given the circumstances, the researchers were pleasantly surprised to learn from their studies that cobras eating other cobras is typical behavior among the serpents.

Out of the 30+ known cobra species that slither among us on Earth, the study encompassed six of those. The researchers found that other types of snakes consisted of anywhere between 13% and 43% of the six cobras’ diets and that at least five of the six cobra species partook in conspecific cannibalism.

Captivatingly, male cobras were the only ones that participated in this behavior, not females. The findings suggest that there could be a gender-specific component involved, perhaps one of combative or territorial significance.

Related: Man finds "half" of a snake inside of a tree while cutting it down

While the research confirms that conspecific cannibalism is more common among specific cobra species than initially thought, it doesn’t quite explain why. Additional research could help hone our understanding of cobras and why they partake in cannibalistic behavior.

Source: Phys.org, Ecology

About the Author
Other
Fascinated by scientific discoveries and media, Anthony found his way here at LabRoots, where he would be able to dabble in the two. Anthony is a technology junkie that has vast experience in computer systems and automobile mechanics, as opposite as those sound.
You May Also Like
DEC 06, 2022
Plants & Animals
Locating Genes to Help Fruit Survive Droughts
Locating Genes to Help Fruit Survive Droughts
As climate change becomes more prominent in our world, people and plants alike are starting to feel the effects of a cha ...
JAN 03, 2023
Health & Medicine
The World's Deadliest Insect VS. mRNA Vaccines
The World's Deadliest Insect VS. mRNA Vaccines
German company BioNTech has announced their "aim to develop the first mRNA-based vaccine for malaria prevention." As par ...
JAN 11, 2023
Plants & Animals
Monkeys, not humans, made the oldest stone tools in Brazil
Monkeys, not humans, made the oldest stone tools in Brazil
Stone tools dated to 50,000 years ago were probably made by capuchin monkeys, not humans.
JAN 16, 2023
Cell & Molecular Biology
The First Cross-Species Signaling Pathway is Discovered
The First Cross-Species Signaling Pathway is Discovered
For the first time, a signaling pathway that links two species has been revealed - molecules generated when bacteria inf ...
JAN 25, 2023
Plants & Animals
Mediterranean diet has positive impact on physical fitness
Mediterranean diet has positive impact on physical fitness
The Mediterranean diet, at least when compared with other diets, is often associated with improved health, particularly ...
FEB 04, 2023
Earth & The Environment
Climate Change Exposes Vulnerabilities with Red Sea Urchins in California
Climate Change Exposes Vulnerabilities with Red Sea Urchins in California
In a recent study published in Science Advances, a team of researchers led by the University of California, Santa Cruz ( ...
Loading Comments...