Life as We Know It
Wolves, hibernating animals, spitting cobras and more
- By Joseph Caputo, T.A. Frail, Megan Gambino, Abigail Tucker and Sarah Zielinski
- Smithsonian magazine, April 2009
(Rod Patterson, Gallo Images / Corbis)
Name: Spitting cobras, snakes in the genus Naja.
Evil Eye: They spit a blinding venom at prey up to six feet away.
Bull's Eye: In a study of spitting accuracy, one species hit its target 80 percent of the time and another never missed.
Snake Eyes? Sure, a cobra can see its prey's face, but the key lies in the snake's neck, according to a new study out of the University of Bonn in Germany. A striking snake shakes and twists its head, dispersing venom in a pattern that makes the drops almost impossible to avoid. The researchers, though, worked behind glass.
"Molecular and Evolutionary History of Melanism in North American Gray Wolves," Tovi M. Anderson et al., Science, February 5, 2009.
"New Protocetid Whale from the Middle Eocene of Pakistan: Birth on Land, Precocial Development, and Sexual Dimorphism," Philip D. Gingerich et al., PLoS ONE, February 2009.
"Contribution of Fish to the Marine Inorganic Carbon Cycle," R. W. Wilson et al., Science, January 16, 2009.
"Functional Bases of the Spatial Dispersal of Venom during Cobra 'Spitting'," Bruce A. Young et al., Physiological and Biochemical Zoology, January/February 2009.
"Lower Extinction Risk in Sleep-or-Hide Mammals," Lee Hsiang Liow et al., American Naturalist, February 2009.