Snake venom is highly modified saliva containing zootoxins that facilitate the immobilization and digestion of prey and defence against threats. It is injected by unique fangs during a bite, and some species are also able to spit their venom.
King Cobra Venoms contain more than 20 different compounds, mostly proteins and polypeptides. A complex mixture of proteins, enzymes, and various other substances with toxic and lethal properties serves to immobilize the prey animal, enzymes play an important role in the digestion of prey, and various other substances are responsible for important but non-lethal biological effects.
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The four distinct types of venom act on the body differently:
- Proteolytic venom dismantles the molecular surroundings, including the bite.
- Hemotoxic venom act on the heart and cardiovascular system.
- Neurotoxic venom acts on the nervous system and brain.
- Cytotoxic venom has a localized action at the site of the bite
Some of the proteins in snake venom have very specific effects on various biological functions including blood coagulation, blood pressure regulation, and transmission of the nervous or muscular impulses, and have been developed for use as pharmacological or diagnostic tools, and even use drugs.
Snake toxins vary greatly in their functions. The two broad classes of toxins found in snake venoms are neurotoxins (mostly found in elapids) and Hemotoxins (mostly found in viperids).
However, exceptions occur — the venom of the black-necked spitting cobra (Naja nigricollis), an elapid, consists mainly of cytotoxins, while that of the Mojave rattlesnake (Crotalus scutulatus), a viperid, is primarily neurotoxic. Both elapids and viperids may carry numerous other types of toxins.