Life cycle facts for king cobras

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Life cycle facts for king cobras
King cobras will defend their eggs fiercely when threatened. (Tom Brakefield/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

The king cobra is one of the most dangerous snakes in the world, producing venom that is capable of killing large animals. Although its venom can kill humans, the king cobra has a diet that is mainly made up of other snakes and would normally only bite a human in defence. Fully grown king cobras can measure between 12 and 18 feet in length. Although most female snakes are larger than males, female king cobras are smaller than their male counterparts. These snakes can be found in their native habitat in India, Southeast Asia and southern China. They usually live for around 20 years.

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Breeding Season

The king cobra breeding season occurs once a year, usually beginning in January. The breeding season lasts until April when nests are built and eggs are laid. King cobras will usually begin to reproduce when they reach 5 to 6 years of age.

Mating Behavior

Females release a scent to attract male mates at the beginning of the mating season. This scent is released as the female king cobra sheds her skin. If male king cobras are competing for a female mate, they will attempt to win the right to her by wrestling each other with their strong necks. King cobra courtship behaviour involves the male snake rubbing his head against the females until she consents to mate with him by twisting their bodies together. The male and female king cobras can remain with their bodies twisted together for hours or even days while they mate.

Nests

Male and female king cobra mates work together in selecting a suitable nesting site, but the female snake builds the nest alone. The female uses her coils to gather leaves, twigs and other vegetation and build a nest from the material. These nests are built to protect the eggs from predators and to regulate the temperature of the eggs during incubation. The king cobra is unusual as no other snakes build nests for their eggs.

Eggs

Female king cobras lay fertilised eggs around 55 days after mating. A clutch of king cobra eggs can contain between 10 and 50 eggs. The female coils her body around the eggs to guard them from predators until they hatch after an incubation period of between 65 and 80 days. The male king cobra also remains close to the nests for additional protection. The female leaves the nest just before the eggs hatch. This prevents the carnivorous king cobra from giving into the temptation of eating her young.

Young King Cobras

Newly-hatched king cobras measure between 12 and 25 inches in length. They are black in colour with white and yellow markings on their heads and bodies. Shortly after hatching, young king cobras produce venom as potent as an adult's and are able to hunt and kill small animals. However, young king cobras are also become prey to other animals such as mongooses and army ants.

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