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Posts Tagged ‘electrodes’

Back off, man, I’m a snake scientist

So let’s say you want to know just how a hooded cobra strikes its iconic pose–a mystery that has eluded researchers for more than 200 years.

How do you do it?

Very carefully.

Hooded cobra by Russ Cowling courtesy of Flickr

Ken Kardong, a professor in WSU’s School of Biological Sciences, and Bruce Young from the University of Massachusetts Lowell, inserted tiny electrodes in the necks of cobras and measured the electrical activity of different muscles as the snakes flared their necks.

“Doing the surgery was the riskiest part of the study because you have to work around the head but the snakes are prone to waking, which can be disconcerting,” Young told Inside JEB, a news page for the Journal of Experimental Biology, which features a research paper on the work.

The researchers found eight muscles involved in opening the hood. Two groups–the levator costae and the intercostal muscles–are key.

“A second set of muscles connecting ribs to skin primarily keep the skin taut, rather than to displace the ribs relative to the vertebrae,” the authors say in their paper’s abstract.A third set of muscles coursing between ribs function primarily to transmit forces between adjacent ribs rather than to move ribs.”

Young, B. A. and Kardong, K. V. (2010). The functional morphology of hooding in cobras. J. Exp. Biol. 213, 1521-1528.


Cobra hood mechanism revealed by electrode study (BBC News, April 17, 2010)