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 Species of giant spitting cobra discovered

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Issachar
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PostSubject: Species of giant spitting cobra discovered   Mon Dec 10, 2007 12:01 pm

Species of giant spitting cobra discovered

News.com.au , From correspondents in Kenya
December 08, 2007

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Deadly ... the discovery of the giant spitting cobra Naja Ashei in Kenya has been described as "exciting "/ AFP

A NEW species of a giant spitting cobra - bout 2.6 metres long and with enough venom to kill up to 20 people in one bite - has been discovered in Kenya, a study said today.

The large brown spitting cobra, initially included under the black-necked spitting cobra species, was discovered at a snake farm in June 2004, but confirmed as a separate species this year.

The black-necked species grow to a maximum of two metres, with an average of 1.5 metres, scientists said, making the new species the largest in the world.

The new Naja Ashei species, named after James Ashe who founded the Bio-Ken snake farm in Watamu on the Kenyan coast, produces 6.2ml of liquid venom in a single milking.

Herpetologist Wolfgang Wuster and Donald Bradley in a study said the new species is found in the dry lowlands of northern and eastern Kenya, north-eastern Uganda, southern Ethiopia and southern Somalia.

"But the most common area you can find this species is along the Kenyan coast," herpetolgist Royjan Taylor, who manages the Bio-Ken snake farm, said.

The discovery brings to six the number of African spitting cobra species, the study said.

Although cobras have the highest public profile among venomous snakes, "our understanding of the taxonomy of the group has until recently remained woefully inadequate, particularly in terms of understanding the species limits within different well differentiated groups", the experts said.

But after observing morphological variations between the brown and black cobras, the pair concluded that the "differences are indeed a result of the population being different evolutionary lineages".

World-renowned conservationist Richard Leakey said the discovery of the giant species was "exciting".

"There have to be many other unreported species but hundreds are being lost as their habitats disappear under the continued mismanagement of our planet," Mr Leakey said.
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