The black mamba is one of the most well-known venomous snakes in the world and the longest venomous snake found in Africa. Its scientific name, Dendroaspis polylepis, means, loosely translated, “tree snake of many scales”.
The name is thought to be in reference to its ability to climb trees very quickly and its length, which requires many scales to cover.
Danger to Humans:
Some people rate the black mamba as the most dangerous snake in the world. Even two drops of its venom is enough to kill a grown human! Before anti-venom medication was developed, a bite from a black mamba would mean sure death within 20 minutes!
Today, however, as long as people receive immediate medical care after a bite, it is likely they will recover. Unfortunately, not a lot of the anti-venom is readily available in rural areas of the black mamba’s range, or the area in which it can be found.
In order for a black mamba to live in a place, it must offer a high temperature and high humidity. They can be found in a variety of habitats in east and south Africa, including forests, swamps, savannas, and rocky areas.
There are two interesting facts about a black mamba’s appearance. First, their sheer length is amazing! On average, black mambas are about 8 feet tall! This is taller than an average man. The longest black mamba has been recorded at 14 feet tall! They can weigh up to 4 pounds.
The other interesting fact about the black mamba is its color. Contrary to its name, the black mamba is not actually black! Instead, it ranges from olive to gray in color. The name actually comes from the color of the inside of its mouth, which is a dark, inky black.
The black mamba will open its mouth when it feels threatened. If a person ever sees black when around a black mamba, it is best to take the warning and get away!
When it comes to eating, the black mamba’s special jaws come in handy. Its very flexible, or stretchy, jaws and neck scales allow it to eat prey whole. It can eat prey up to 3-4 times larger than its head.
The black mamba preys on small birds and mammals, such as mice, voles, rats, and squirrels. However, scientists have discovered some interesting food in the stomachs of black mambas. Some of the most unique findings were a fully-grown parrot and an adult cobra.
- Special Adaptations: One of the reasons a black mamba is so feared is because of its speed. It can easily outrun a human with a maximum speed of over 12 miles per hour! A black mamba can zoom along on the ground at this speed even while holding its head up about 4 feet off the ground! The black mamba does not use its speed to hunt and only uses it to escape when it feels threatened. If escape is not an option, the black mamba can become aggressive and put on a cobra-like display, raising its head and body off the ground, widening its neck, opening its mouth, and hissing to warn off the threat.
- Reproduction: Black mambas lay about 6-17 eggs. Female black mambas have a hard job locating the perfect spot to lay her eggs because it has to be damp, but not too wet, and warm, but not too hot. Once she finds the perfect spot, she lays the eggs and in about 3 months, new baby black mambas are born! The neonates, or newborns, are about 16-24 inches at birth!
- Conservation Status: Black mambas are considered species of Least Concern. Their only threat is humans, who often kill them on sight, and continued development of their natural habitat. Human deaths remain high due to black mamba bites, and this rate will only increase as humans and black mambas draw closer together due to development in Africa.
Striking Statements of Fact:
- Black mambas can often be found in pairs or groups of three. Together, they return to the same spot to sleep every night! The black mamba prefers a permanent place to return to when it is not hunting.
- Although the longest snake in Africa, it is the second-longest venomous snake in the world. The king cobra is the longest reaching lengths of 18 feet.