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The King Cobra is the largest venomous snake. The solitary King Cobra lives in rainforests, tropical deciduous forests, tropical scrub forests, and tropical grasslands of India, southern China, and southeast Asia. Several of people die from the bite of the King Cobra each year. A King Cobra can even kill an elephant.

The King Cobra can slither on land, climb on trees, and swim on water; it often lives near water. It has a life span of about 20 years.

The Hood: When the King Cobra is threatened or on the attack, it will hiss, rear up, and flatten its neck ribs into a hood. There are false eyespots on the hood, which can scare some predators.

Anatomy: King Cobras have been found up to 18 feet (5.5 m) long, but average about 13 ft (4 m) long. Its hollow fangs are up to 1/2 inch (1.25 cm) long. Poison is forced through the fangs when the cobra bites. The scaly skin glistens but is dry to the touch. Adults are yellow, green, brown, or black; the throat is light yellow or cream-colored. Juveniles are black with yellow or white bars crossing the body. The King Cobra smells using its forked tongue. Although it is deaf to sounds, it can feel vibrations (like footsteps).

Like all snakes, King Cobras are cold-blooded; they are the same temperature as the environment. They continue to grow all their lives, getting bigger and bigger each year.

Hunting and Diet: The King Cobra is a carnivore (meat-eater). King Cobras are venomous; one bite can paralyze and kill their prey within minutes. The victim dies from suffocation, as the lungs and heart stop.

Like all snakes, they swallow the prey whole, head first. The top and bottom jaws are attached to each other with stretchy ligaments, which let the snake swallow animals wider that itself. Snakes can't chew their prey; food is digested by very strong acids in the snake's stomach.

The King Cobra eats mostly cold-blooded animals, including snakes (like the rat snake) and lizards. After swallowing a large animal (which can take hours), the King Cobra can go without food for months.

Reproduction: Female King Cobras build a leafy nest early in spring; they lay up to 20 to 50 white, leathery eggs, which have an incubation period of 60 to 70 days. Nesting females are very dangerous.

Classification: Class Reptilia (reptiles), Order Squamata (lizards and snakes), Suborder Serpentes, Family Elapidae, Genus Ophiophagus, Species hannah.

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