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
  • 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
AUG 05, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Bullock's & Baltimore Orioles May Mix, But They Won't Merge
AUG 05, 2020
Bullock's & Baltimore Orioles May Mix, But They Won't Merge
Researchers have data that can finally settle a long controversy in the birding world.
AUG 27, 2020
Genetics & Genomics
Understanding How Animals Make Seasonal Adaptations
AUG 27, 2020
Understanding How Animals Make Seasonal Adaptations
Some animals don't need a new wardrobe to change with the seasons, and scientists have now learned more about how they d ...
SEP 10, 2020
Plants & Animals
Scientists Document Swimming Styles of Sea Butterflies
SEP 10, 2020
Scientists Document Swimming Styles of Sea Butterflies
Snails, marine and terrestrial, are likely primarily imagined to be attached to a substrate. However, under the waves, t ...
OCT 25, 2020
Neuroscience
Chimps Shift to Reciprocated Friendships with Age
OCT 25, 2020
Chimps Shift to Reciprocated Friendships with Age
Image: Pixabay   Researchers studying aging male chimpanzee relationships have gathered evidence that chimps narrow ...
NOV 16, 2020
Cancer
Fingerprinting Ginger Extracts and Testing Their Anti-Cancer Abilities
NOV 16, 2020
Fingerprinting Ginger Extracts and Testing Their Anti-Cancer Abilities
Modern medicine relies on careful study and isolation of compounds or proteins, but many studies point to natural herbal ...
NOV 18, 2020
Plants & Animals
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
NOV 18, 2020
This Bat Species Uses Masks for Mating
From pandemic precautions to televised talent shows, masks are having a moment. Even this bizarre bat species has a buil ...
Loading Comments...