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Naja naja (LINNAEUS, 1758)

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Higher TaxaElapidae, Colubroidea, Caenophidia, Alethinophidia, Serpentes, Squamata (snakes)
Common NamesE: Common cobra, Spectacled cobra
G: Kobra, Brillenschlange 
SynonymColuber Naja LINNAEUS 1758: 221
Naja brasiliensis LAURENTI 1768
Naja fasciata LAURENTI 1768
Naja lutescens LAURENTI 1768
Naja maculata LAURENTI 1768
Naja non-naja LAURENTI 1768
Coluber caecus GMELIN 1788
Coluber rufus GMELIN 1788
Coluber Naja — SHAW & NODDER 1791: plate 74
Coluber Naja — SHAW & NODDER 1794: plate 181
Naja tripudians MERREM 1820
Naja nigra GRAY 1830
Naja tripudians forma typica BOULENGER 1896
Naja tripudians var. caeca BOULENGER 1896 (part.)
Naja naja — STEJNEGER 1907
Naja naja naja — SMITH 1943
Naja naja gangetica DERANIYAGALA 1945
Naja naja lutescens DERANIYAGALA 1945
Naja naja madrasiensis DERANIYAGALA 1945
Naja naja indusi DERANIYAGALA 1960
Naja naja bombaya DERANIYAGALA 1961
Naja naja karachiensis DERANIYAGALA 1961
Naja naja ceylonicus CHATMAN & DI MARI 1974
Naja naja polyocellata MEHRTENS 1987
Naja ceylonicus Osorio E CASTRO & VERNON 1989
Naja (Naja) naja — WALLACH et al. 2009
Naja naja karachiensis — ZEEB 2012
Naja naja karachiensis — LAITA 2013
Naja naja — WALLACH et al. 2014: 461
Naja polyocellata — SHI et al. 2022
Naja polyocellata — SILVA et al. 2023 
DistributionPakistan, India (throughout most of the country, incl. Madhya Pradesh, Assam, Tamil Nadu, Punjab, [Dino Aulakh, pers. comm.], Maharashtra, Kerala, Gujarat, Jammu and Kashmir, Telangana), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan, E Afghanistan (?)

Type locality: “India orientali”  
TypesLectotype: NRM (= NHR) Lin-90 (formerly MAFR), designated by Wallach et al. 2014: 470. Type: BMNH 1946.1.18.50 (according to BMNH online catalogue). 
DiagnosisDiagnosis (subgenus Naja): Extracranial (ventral) anterior Vidian canal position, 0–1 solid maxillary teeth in all species (Wüster, 1990—only 6 out of 650 specimens examined in that study had 2 solid maxillary teeth), seven supralabials with penultimate (sixth) shield low, combination of single preocular and two (occasionally three) anterior temporals, rostral broader than deep; internasals shorter than prefrontals; fang structure variable, all species except N. naja and N. oxiana have some degree of adaptation to spitting (Wüster & Thorpe, 1992b). We tentatively include the extinct †Naja (Naja) romani (Hofstetter, 1939) in this subgenus based on the shared derived condition of the basisphenoid morphology and the vestibular window, despite the possession of two solid maxillary teeth (Szyndlar & Rage, 1990).

DIAGNOSIS (genus): Maxillary bone extends forward beyond palatine; venom fangs moderately short, followed by from 0 to 2 small teeth; eye moderate, pupil round; nostril large, between two nasal scales; loreal scale absent; body scales smooth, in 19–25 longitudinal rows at midbody (for Southeast Asian species only); hemipenes relatively short, forked for less than half their length, variously spinose throughout (from Leviton et al. 2014: 496).

DIAGNOSIS (species): The Indian spectacled cobra is sympatric with two other cobra species: the Centra1 Asian cobra, Naja oxiana, occurs sympatrica1ly in the northern half of Pakistan and probably extreme northern India, and the monocellate cobra, N. kaouthia, occurs sympatrically in northern India (from Delhi eastward). The characters that allow N. naja to be distinguished from N. oxiana in the zone of sympatry are shown in Table 3 (in WÜSTER 1998), and those used to discriminate between N. naja and N. kaouthia are Iisted in his Table 4. The distinction between Naja naja and N. oxiana has often proved problematic, many authors assigning all specimens without a hood mark to N. oxiana. In particular, it should be noted that the black cobras found in parts of north-western India, Pakistan, south-western Nepal and some other areas are not N. oxiana, which is norrnally some shade of brown, but, to my knowledge, never black Distinguishing Naja kaouthia and N. sagittifera from N. naja is usually straightforward due to the difference in hood mark shape and throat pattern, and, in the case of the latter, geographic distribution. 
CommentVenomous! This is one of four common venomous snakes of medical importance in India. The others are Echis carinatus, Bungarus caeruleus, and Daboia russeli.

Subspecies: All Asiatic Naja used to be regarded as subspecies of Naja naja.

Synonymy: Shi et al. 2022 resurrected Naja polyocellata, without providing an updated diagnosis or other details, although they do state that “the insular population of Sri Lanka is different from continental populations by having 15 or more (sometimes up to 20) dark ventral bands vs. one to four bands”.

Type species: Naja lutescens LAURENTI 1768 is the type species of the genus Naja LAURENTI 1768 as well as the type species of the subgenus Naja LAURENTI 1768.

Distribution: Reports from Myanmar probably represent N. kaouthia or N. mandalayensis. For a map see Sindaco et al. 2013, de Silva et al. 2019.

Habitat: partly arboreal (Harrington et al. 2018).

Key: Branch 1981 has a key to the species of Southern Africa. 
EtymologyEtymology (Naja): derived from the Sinhala Naya, cobra. 
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