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Ophiophagus hannah (CANTOR, 1836)

IUCN Red List - Ophiophagus hannah - Vulnerable, VU

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Hamadryad, King Cobra
G: Königskobra
Chinese: 眼镜王蛇 
SynonymHamadryas hannah CANTOR 1836: 87
Naja bungarus SCHLEGEL 1837
Hamadryas ophiophagus CANTOR 1838
Naja vittata ELLIOTT 1840
Dendraspis bungarus FITZINGER 1843
Hamadryas elaps GÜNTHER 1858
Ophiophagus elaps — GÜNTHER 1864
Hamadryas elaps — THEOBALD 1868: 60
Ophiophagus elaps — ANDERSON 1871: 188
Naja ingens VAN HASSELT 1882
Naia bungarus — WALL 1908: 331
Naja hannah — TAYLOR 1922
Naja hannah — SMITH 1943
Ophiophagus hannah — BOGERT 1945
Naja hannah — TWEEDIE 1954
Dendraspis hannah hannah — DERANIYAGALA 1960
Dendraspis hannah borneensis DERANIYAGALA 1960
Dendraspis hannah bungarus DERANIYAGALA 1960
Dendraspis hannah elaps DERANIYAGALA 1960
Dendraspis hannah sinensis DERANIYAGALA 1960
Dendraspis hannah vittata DERANIYAGALA 1960
Dendraspis hannah brunnea DERANIYAGALA 1961
Dendraspis hannah nordicus DERANIYAGALA 1961
Ophiophagus hannah — WELCH 1994: 95
Ophiophagus hannah — MANTHEY & GROSSMANN 1997: 425
Ophiophagus hannah — COX et al. 1998: 25
Ophiophagus hannah — NGUYEN et al. 2009
Ophiophagus hannah — LIVIGNI 2013: 355
Ophiophagus hannah — WALLACH et al. 2014: 507
Ophiophagus hannah — WANG et al. 2022 
DistributionBangladesh, Myanmar (= Burma), Cambodia,
China (Fukien, Kwangtung, Hong Kong, Kwangsi, Hainan, Yunnan, SW Sichuan, SE Xizang = Tibet, Fujian, Hunan), Pakistan,
India (Maharashtra, Karnataka (Dandeli) [J.Kadapatti, pers. comm.]; Arunachal Pradesh [A. Captain, pers. Comm.], Sikkim, West Bengal, Bihar, Orissa = Odisha, Andhra Pradesh, Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, Mizoram, Andaman Islands), Nepal, Bhutan, Indonesia (Sumatra, Java, Sulawesi, Borneo, Bangka, Bali, Mentawai Islands, Riau Islands), Singapore,
Laos, Thailand, Vietnam (Hoa Binh, Yen Bai etc.), W Malaysia (Pulau Tioman),
Philippines (Balabac, Jolo, Luzon [Aurora, Benguet, Bulacan, Isabela, Laguna, Pangasinan, and Zambales], Mindanao [Davao del Sur, South Cotabato, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del norte], Mindoro, Negros, Palawan [Pangulasian], Panay, Cebu, Bohol, Samar). Elevation up to 2000 m.

Type locality: “Sunderbuns” (= Sunderbans, West Bengal, E India) and “jungle not far from Calcutta”.  
Reproductionoviparous; Card et al. 2021 provided evidence for facultative parthenogenesis in this species. 
TypesHolotype: BMNH 1996.451 (formerly RSL). (Probable type of Naja vittata Elliot) (Das, in litt., 9th Oct. 1997, argues that this specimen is the holotype of Naja vittata. Re-registered specimen (original registration number missing). Perhaps the specimen that Elliot reported to have been found floating in a box at sea; fide P. Campbell, pers. comm., March 2019).
Holotype: ZSI, paratype: BNHM [brunnea] 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Body scales smooth, obliquely arranged, in 17–19 rows on the neck, 15 at midbody; middorsal (vertebral) row and outer 2 lateral rows larger than others; ventrals 240–254; subcaudals 84–104, anterior scutes undivided; juveniles are usually dark brown or black with white or yellow cross bars, anteriorly the bars are chevron-shaped but straighten out posteri-orly; with age, the light pattern disappears, and older adults are uniformily brown although some indication of the light cross bars persists (in Myanmar, the banded pattern persists in adults); tail dark olive to black. Total length recorded to 5500 mm, but individuals rarely exceed 4250 mm; tail length approximately 20% of total length. [after LEVITON 2003] 
CommentNomenclature: The name Hamadryas is already preoccupied by a genus of Lepidoptera (butterflies).


Population genetics: The King cobra forms 4 main lineages that may constitute Candidate Species in the (1) Western Ghats; (2) Indo-China (3) Indonesia-Malaysia; (4) Luzon (Philippines) (Shankar et al. 2021: Fig. 7, Amat & Escoriza 2022).

Size: Ophiophagus hannah is the longest venomous snake with up to 5.5 m.

Behavior: This is the only snake species known to build a nest and guards it (H.T.Lalremsanga, pers. comm., 15 June 2017).

Type species: Hamadryas elaps GÜNTHER 1858 is the type species of the genus Ophiophagus GÜNTHER 1864.

Genetics: The genome of this species has been sequenced. DNA barcodes suggested multiple species within this species (Laopichienpong et al. 2016). 
Etymology“Ophiophagus” is derived from Greek, meaning “snake-eating” and hannah is derived from the name of tree-dwelling nymphs in Greek mythology (for the arboreal lifestyle), an alternative name for which is Hamadryas. 
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