Nubian spitting cobra (Naja nubiae)

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassReptilia
OrderSquamata
FamilyElapidae
GenusNaja (1)
SizeTotal length: up to 151 cm (2)

The Nubian spitting cobra has yet to be classified by the IUCN.

Only described as recently as 2003 (3), the Nubian spitting cobra (Naja nubiae) is a fairly slender snake with a relatively broad, flattened head, a rounded snout, round pupils and a medium-length tail (4). Although it a medium-sized snake (4), it is relatively small for a cobra (3). The Nubian spitting cobra has the ability to expand its ribs and form a ‘hood’ when threatened (4).

The upperparts of the Nubian spitting cobra are brownish-grey, with black bases to the scales, while the underparts are a lighter buff colour and have a yellowish tint towards the rear of the body. There is a very faint dark speckling along the middle of the belly (3).

The Nubian spitting cobra is also distinguished by a throat pattern consisting of two to three dark bands (2) (3), some of which cross the neck immediately behind the head to form a forward-pointing chevron on the back of the neck (3). The third throat band often fades with age. In front of the main throat band is a distinct lighter area, usually with a small dark spot on either side. The Nubian spitting cobra also has a conspicuous, well-defined ‘tear drop’ marking under the eye (3).

This species was previously mistaken for the closely related red spitting cobra, Naja pallida. However, the red spitting cobra has only one dark band crossing the throat, and lacks the pair of dark throat spots seen in the Nubian spitting cobra (3).

The Nubian spitting cobra has a widespread but patchy distribution in north-eastern Africa, particularly in the south-eastern part of the Sahara region. It occurs in Egypt, Sudan, Chad, Niger and Eritrea, with most specimens having been recorded in Egypt (3).

An apparently isolated population of Nubian spitting cobras occurs at elevations of around 1,800 to 2,000 metress on Jebel Marra, Sudan (3).

The most commonly documented habitats of the Nubian spitting cobra are in arid regions, including dry savanna and semi-desert (2). However, within this broader range the Nubian spitting cobra appears to favour relatively moist areas (3) (4).

Along the Nile Valley, the Nubian spitting cobra lives in low vegetation (3) (5).

Relatively little is known about the biology of this recently described species. The Nubian spitting cobra is reported to be nocturnal (2) (4), although juveniles may be more active during the day (4). A ground-dwelling species, this snake typically hides in holes, brush piles or under other ground cover during the day, and if disturbed will raise the front part of its body and spread its ‘hood’ (4). The Nubian spitting cobra is thought to be a good swimmer (5).

Like other spitting cobras, the Nubian spitting cobra has the ability to ‘spit’ or squirt venom at potential attackers (4) (6). This is a defensive behaviour which aims the venom at the attacker’s eyes, where in other spitting cobras it may cause pain, damage to the cornea or even blindness. Although the venom is harmless if it lands on intact skin or in the mouth, bites by spitting cobras can sometimes be dangerous to humans (6).

The Nubian spitting cobra is reported to prey on amphibians, rodents, birds and possibly other snakes (4). This species lays eggs (1), with clutches potentially being similar in size to those of the closely related red spitting cobra (N. pallida), which typically lays between 6 and 15 eggs (6).

Within Egypt, the Nubian spitting cobra is uncommon and localised and is considered to be ‘Near Threatened’. However, worldwide this species is not believed to be at risk of extinction (2). There are no known major threats to the Nubian spitting cobra.

There are no known specific conservation measures currently in place for the Nubian spitting cobra.

Find out more about the Nubian spitting cobra and other reptiles:

More information on reptile conservation:

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

  1. The Reptile Database (May, 2012)
    http://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/search.php
  2. Baha El Din, S. (2005) A Guide to the Reptiles and Amphibians of Egypt. American University Press, Cairo.
  3. Wüster, W. and Broadley, D.G. (2003) A new species of spitting cobra (Naja) from north-eastern Africa (Serpentes: Elapidae). Journal of Zoology, 259: 345-359.
  4. WCH Clinical Toxinology Resources - Naja nubiae (May, 2012)
    http://www.toxinology.com/fusebox.cfm?fuseaction=main.snakes.display&id=SN2558
  5. Hegner, D. (1994) Egyptské kobry rodu Naja- (1) Naja pallida. Akvárium Terárium, 37: 35-37.
  6. O’Shea, M. (2008) Venomous Snakes of the World. New Holland Publishers, London.