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Full text of "Medical Jurisprudence And Toxicology"

602                                                MEDICAL JURISPRUDENCE

SNAKES   (OPHIDIA)     °

For medico-legal purposes snakes may be classified as poisonous and
non-poisonous.

Poisonous Snakes.—These belong to two families, the Colubridse and the
Viperidae.

The colubridse or colubrine snakes lay eggs. Their head is of about the
same width as that of the neck, and the pupils of their eyes are circular.
They are subdivided into the elapidse (land or terrestrial snakes) and the
hydrophidse (sea snakes).

The elapidse or land snakes have a round tail, and include the cobra
(Naiatripudians), the king cobra or hamadryad (Naia bungarus), the com-
mon krait (Bungarus caeruleus) and the banded krait (Bungarus fasciatus),

Cobra.—This snake is known in the vernacular as Nag or Kala Samp
and occurs throughout India. It grows to a length of five to six feet, and
has a variable colour but is usually black. It is provided with a well-
marked hood, which often bears a double or single spectacle mark, but it
has sometimes an oval spot surrounded by an ellipse. The portion of the
neck surrounding the spectacle-mark is darker than the rest of the back,
and is often speckled with small golden spots. Ordinarily a cobra is seen
without a hood. It expands its neck in the form of a hood only when it is
enraged, or is in danger or when it is about to strike. The hood cannot be
seen in a dead cobra, as the joints and the neck become stiff. The third
supralabial shield is big and extends from the eye to the nasal shield, but
this peculiarity is seen in a cobra and a coral snake. In the absence of a
hood the following characteristic marks are quite sufficient to identify a
cobra: —

1.    A wedge-shaped tiny shield, known as the cuneate or wedge shield,
is seen between the fourth and fifth infralabial shields.   This shield is rarely
absent in a cobra, but it is never seen in any other variety of a snake,

2.    The dark coloured belly plates are seen under and below the neck,

3.    The shields under the tail are double.

King Cobra.—This is known in the vernacular as Raj Nag or Raj Samp
and is met with in the Himalayas, Lower Bengal, Assam and Burma and in
the hills and forests of Southern India. It is bigger than a common cobra,
and grows to a length of eight to twelve feet or even, fifteen feet. It is pro-
vided with a hood, which does not bear a spectacle-mark. The shields under
the tail near the vent or opening are entire, while those towards the extre-
mity are divided. The vertebral row of scales is similar in size and shape
to the adjacent rows.

The young king cobra is jet black in colour, and is provided with white
or yellow cross bars on the body and tail and four similar bars on the head.
The adult king cobra varies a good deal in colour, and may be yellow, green,
brown or black, and is usually provided with more or less distinct white or
yellowish cross bars or chevrons on the body. The belly may be nearly
uniform, mottled or adorned with bars, while the throat is usually light
yellow or cream-coloured.

Common Krait.—This occurs throughout India, and is called Manyar in
Bombay and the Deccan, Kalotaro in Gujarat, Chitti in Bengal and Kawriya
or Chit Kawriya in the Punjab. It varies from three to four feet or even
five feet in length. It has generally a shining steel-black colour, and has
narrow single or double white arches across the back. These arches begin
at some distance from the head and extend up to the tip of the tail. Its belly
has a creamy white colour. A common krait can be identified by the follow-
ing characteristic marks: —