King Cobra Genus Question

King Cobra Genus Question

Postby snakemanjayd » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:15 pm

Hi. I searched through old posts and only found one thread on this, and it didn't say too much.
Why is the King Cobra put into it's own Genus (Ophiophagus) separate to other Cobras (Naja)?
Anyone know for sure?
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby snakemanjayd » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:20 pm

I checked it out on the all-knowing Wikipedia, but it didn't show me anything that was that different that would warrant another Genus.
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby Fooble » Thu Feb 04, 2010 10:30 pm

Jayd you should know better then to use wikki
I know it is Ophiophagus hannah is not a "true cobra" i read an interesting paper a while back online about it but i cant seem to find it now.
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby Archie Bottoms » Fri Feb 05, 2010 5:42 am

I think that they are getting a new name something like Raymondi hooseri.LOL but the whole naja now includes water cobras and tree cobras.Kings are being broke up in to at least 3 saperate species.The only true cobras are naja.I think the burrowing cobra is also naja as well now.Wolfgang could pipe in and tell the real story.
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby snakemanjayd » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:32 am

Thanks Fooble. But wiki knows all! I know they're not rue cobra's, but haven't had a decent reason why.
Like I get that the rinkals has keeled scales and live young and different spitting techniques to cobras, but can't think of anything for the king cobra.
Ok, thanks. I get that the true ones are Naja, but what makes them true? Or was it just a case of some biologist or taxonomist feeling different.
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby Mongoose » Fri Feb 05, 2010 8:44 am

Snakemanyjayd - I don't know the answer to your question - but there could be differences in the form of the Hemipene structure that are different to naja, Cranial structures etc.

I would like to know the answer too
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby WW » Fri Feb 05, 2010 9:40 am

The main criterion for putting species in different genera is not how similar or dissimilar they are, but evolutionary descent. It turns out that king cobras do not share a recent common ancestor with other cobras - taxa like Hemachatus, Aspidelaps and Walterinnesia are all more closely related to Naja than is the king cobra.

As an aside, there are a number of major differences in morphology, and the hemipenis is one - it can measure around 30 cm in male king cobras. There is more than one reason why it's called the king ;)

Also, let's remember that the term "cobra" is not a specific biological term, but a somewhat vague, common, popular name (rather like "frog" or "toad") applied fairly loosely to a number of Old World elapids, so there is not too much point in arguing about "true" vs. other cobras...
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby snakemanjayd » Fri Feb 05, 2010 7:22 pm

Thanks WW.
This is going to sound ignorant, but how do they know the evolutionary decent of a species, if not by considering similarity?
So are the King cobra's hemipenes larger in proportion to its body or just a different structure?
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby marc bt » Fri Feb 05, 2010 11:14 pm

I know this may sound stupid, but do you think a minor reason is because it "builds" a nest? Or are there some naja species that do that too? A minor reason.
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby WW » Sat Feb 06, 2010 7:21 am

snakemanjayd wrote:Thanks WW.
This is going to sound ignorant, but how do they know the evolutionary decent of a species, if not by considering similarity?
So are the King cobra's hemipenes larger in proportion to its body or just a different structure?


King cobra hemipenes: both: very large, and quite different in shape to Naja.

Finding out about evolutionary relationships: overall similarity is not a guide, since it may simply be a leftover from a primitive ancestor. For instance, lungfish are more closely related to humans (i.e., we share a more recent common ancestor) than to a trout, even though lungfish and trout are more similar to each other than lungfish and humans - it's just that the "fish" have retained a huge number of similar features, whereas land vertebrates have changed enormously in the same time. the main approach used today is cladistics, which focuses attention on shared, evolutionarily derived characters. This is not easy too explain (it takes me two hours to cover in lectures, and I am travelling at the moment, so I can't explain it all here and now - check out http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cladistics, although you may find it a bit indigestible).

More importantly nowadays, genetic methods, particularly DNA sequence comparisons, have really taken over the field, and they certainly do confirm that king cobras are very distant to other cobra-like elapids.

Hope this helps!
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Re: King Cobra Genus Question

Postby snakemanjayd » Sat Feb 06, 2010 8:29 am

Cool. Thanks WW.
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