HOW THE NON SCIENTIST SEPARATES SPECIES
Look at these two gorgeous and very different juvenile king cobras, the one with fewer bands from Agumbe in south India where our Agumbe Rainforest Research station team is has been following radio tracked king cobras since 2008 and the one with many bands from Kalimantan on the island of Borneo 5000 kms to the east where Md. Silmi, Matt Goode and I have been studying telemetered king cobras for several years. As a college dropout I take great liberties and make pseudoscientific pronouncements like "look at these two hatchling king cobras and try to tell me they aren't different species".
Taxonomists, and our colleague Gowri Shankar is one of them, have to be scientifically rigorous and look at all the morphometric and dna profiles of many many king cobra specimens and I'm confident they will finally give us the news we've been waiting for, that the genus Ophiophagus is a species complex and there are indeed several species of king cobras across its huge range from India to the Philippines. Back in the 1930s the incredibly energetic Sri Lankan herpetologist, P.E.P. Deraniyangala was very interested in king cobras (even though there are none in Sri Lanka) and proposed that this widely distribute snake should be divided into as many as nine different species. We should soon be hearing more precise findings from our taxo-friends!
King cobra baby. Kalimantan,Indonesia.
Photo: Pak Suryadi
King cobra baby. Agumbe, South India.
Photo: Rom Whitaker