Generally speaking, the black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) favors fairly dry settings including rocky outcrops, semi-arid savannas, mountain tops, scrubs, and light woods. They live in lowland woods and wet savannah as well. Termite mounds, tree fissures, and rock crevices are among the snake’s preferred hiding places.
Being cold-blooded, they wait until it is warm and bright outside before venturing out into the open. Here are some more interesting trivia about this feared, amazing, and much misunderstood snake.
What is the black mamba?
Black mambas are swift, jittery, very poisonous, and highly aggressive when threatened. Numerous human fatalities have been attributed to them, and African traditions often overstate their power. For these reasons, the black mamba is regarded as the deadliest snake in the entire world.
Black Mamba Scientific Name
The black mamba, or Dendroaspis polylepis, is a member of the Elapidae family, which also includes coral snakes and king cobras. Their scientific name is Dendroaspis, which translates to “tree asp” in ancient Greek (dendro = “tree” + aspis = asp); asp was previously a general word for any poisonous snake.
Polylepis also derives from the Greek words poly for numerous and lepis for scale. Dendroaspis polylepis is hence known as the “Many-scaled tree asp.”
They go by the term black mouthed mambas in addition to the general name mamba, which is a word acquired from either Zulu or Swahili.
Black Mambas Are Actually Brown
Contrary to common opinion, “black” does not literally relate to the color of the black mamba’s body. It really refers to the shade of the snake’s mouth.
The lack of colorful colors or patterns on the mamba’s body makes it easy for both people and animals to recognize the species of snake they have come across. Similar to a rattlesnake’s rattle or a king cobra’s hood, the black mamba’s dark coloring serves as a warning and is an indication that it is getting ready to defend itself.
The snake gives its foes time to flee when it senses danger by opening its mouth before striking. The bodies of black mambas often range in color from a light tan or olive to a deeper brown shade. Mambas tend to get a little lighter as they get older. White lips are typical of the other green mambas.
How To Identify Black Mambas: Appearance and Description
Like its other Mamba relatives, these snakes are tall and thin and have a coffin-shaped head. They are seldom black and have grayish-white bellies. They might be olive, yellowish-brown, khaki, or gunmetal gray in appearance.
They are known as “Black” Mambas because of their mouths, notably the inside. It varies in color from a deep blue gray to almost black. The front-fanged, non-retractable fangs of black mambas can reach a length of one-fourth inch.
After king cobras, black mambas are the longest poisonous snakes in the world. These long, thin snakes may grow up to 9 feet long on average, and some have even been known to exceed 14 feet.
They have circular pupils in their medium-sized eyes, which range in hue from grayish brown to different degrees of black. Even young animals may grow exceedingly long; frequently, they exceed 6 feet in length in the first year after hatching.
Black Mamba Snake Characteristics
Adult Black mamba snakes can grow up to 4.5 meters long, with an average length of 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) (14 feet). The Black Mamba Snake’s name comes from the black coloring inside of its mouth, not from the grey to olive tone of its skin.
The black mamba snake can go up to 20 km per hour, making it the quickest snake in the world (12.5 miles per hour). However, rather of pursuing prey, it uses its speed to avoid danger.
They Move Fast
The world’s fastest moving snakes are black mambas. They have been reported to slither as quickly as 10 to 12 mph over a smooth surface. That’s rather outstanding for a creature without legs. To put it into perspective, a Komodo dragon cannot outrun a black mamba. Mambas can move fluidly and effortlessly in the water since they can also swim.
Black mambas have been known to drop on their predators if they feel threatened, even though green mambas spend more time up in the trees. Despite having a reputation as a vicious and terrible murderer due to their speed, most mambas choose to flee rather than attack.
Mambas seldom initiate an assault, especially when confronted with a larger animal or a person. Black mamba assaults frequently only happen as a result of being surrounded or caught off guard, acting in self-defense, or being provoked first.
Who do black mambas live with?
The black mamba favors a solitary existence. They only communicate with other members of their species during mating season since they are not very sociable beings.
Where To Find Black Mambas
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a diverse spectrum of these adaptive snakes. Although they also live in lowland forests and wet savanna, they tend to favor light woodland and scrub, rocky outcrops, and semi-arid savanna. Black mambas withdraw to the same den and only alter their behavior if the den is disturbed.
They are extensively dispersed over sub-Saharan Africa, with southern and eastern Africa appearing to be where they are most prevalent.
Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Eswatini, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Angola are other places where black mambas are common.
Bush infants, hyraxes, birds and their young, animals, and even other snakes are among their prey. They are opportunistic feeders that favor mammals but will consume whatever they can get their teeth on. They bite and release their victim instead of striking and clinging onto it, then wait until the animal is rendered helpless or has passed away.
How do they communicate?
The black mamba likes to live alone and is not a gregarious creature. When they perceive any dangers or attacks, they prefer to stay away from people and other animals and seek refuge in a bush or burrow. They hiss and extend their neck-flap or hood when approached though.
The attacker is being forewarned by this hostile conduct. They hiss and use their eyes to sense movements, much like other snakes do. Since they are deaf, they can only hear vibrations in the earth. They will execute a series of quick strikes that will be lethal for the victim if they notice any abrupt movements.
Their Bite Is Known as the ‘Kiss of Death’
Although a black mamba seldom attacks a person without provocation, they are nevertheless thought to be among the world’s most poisonous snakes.
They are revered and feared throughout Africa, and a mythical tale surrounds the snake’s larger-than-life reputation. Baby mambas are born with the ability to attack and spit toxic venom from their two teeth, and their venom is the deadliest.
An adult snake can have anywhere from 12 to 20 droplets of venom per fang, compared to a baby snake’s few drops. Only two drops of venom are needed for a human or animal to get a deadly dosage. Since the venom is neurotoxic rather than hemotoxic, it targets the brain and nervous system.
An typical adult human can pass away after being bitten in as little as 20 minutes. Convulsions, respiratory failure, and eventually a condition of comatoseness are among the bite-related symptoms that appear right away.
If the sufferer can obtain aid soon, there are several locations where anti-venom therapy is available. It’s interesting to note that in addition to morphine, researchers are looking at the effects of a natural analgesic found in the venom of black mambas.
What is a black mamba’s habitat?
Sub-Saharan Africa is home to a wide variety of black mamba habitats. The African nations of Mozambique, Namibia, Ethiopia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Zambia, Eritrea, Somalia, Uganda, Kenya, Botswana, Malawi, South Africa, the Central African Republic, Angola, Zimbabwe, Tanzania, and many more are all included in their geographical area.
Black Mambas Habits
These swift serpents can run quicker than the majority of people, which helps to explain why they are so feared. Black mambas are among the fastest snake species, achieving crawling speeds of up to 12 mph (or 19 kph), according to Viernum.
Despite being quick, this is still slower than what the legends of them being faster than horses would have you believe. They average roughly 7 mph while traveling further distances (11 kph).
They move fast across flat ground in short spurts, and they can move along with roughly one-third of their bodies elevated and their heads held high. A terrible and wonderful sight is the black mamba sprinting along with its head about 4 feet (1.2 m) in the air.
National Geographic claims that black mambas, instead of hunting, use their remarkable speed to flee from danger.
Black mambas spend the day hunting and being active. At night, they return to the same location to sleep. They are frequently observed “bathing in the limbs of a tree in the early morning” before starting hunting, according to Widescreen’s ARKive Initiative.
Despite their inherent shyness, black mambas are occasionally encountered in couples or small groups, as Viernum noted. They are “shy and secretive snakes that want to avoid confrontation,” she claimed. However, if confronted, “black mambas may become quite violent. Their most notable behavioral trait is their defensiveness.
According to Viernum, “these snakes will elevate their upper body off the ground to stand erect when challenged with no perceived possible escape.” They are capable of lifting their front thirds of their bodies 3 to 4 feet (0.9 to 1.2 m) off the ground. In order to reveal the black lining, they would “stretch their cobra-like neck flaps” and “gape their lips.” This protective stance aims to frighten the enemy away.
Black mambas will “strike repeatedly, possibly give huge amounts of venom with each strike, and hiss loudly” if they need to protect themselves. They’ll then crawl away as quickly as they can.
There are no particular predators of black mambas. According to the ARKive, habitat degradation is their biggest concern.
Black Mamba Snake Behaviour And Diet
Black mambas typically spend the night in abandoned tunnels or deep hiding places amongst boulders or logs that have fallen to the ground. The snake will also flee to these hiding spots if it becomes startled and will strike any animal that gets in the way of its burrow.
The black mamba snake, like other reptiles, is cold blooded and depends on outside heat to keep its body temperature stable. As a result, it typically spends the day lazing in the sun, either on a low branch or a rock. However, in the summer, if the weather gets too hot, the snake may be compelled to seek refuge in its burrow.
Black Mamba snakes generally spend a lot of time in their lairs, which are frequently abandoned bug mounds or hollow trees, if they are not disturbed.
Black mamba snakes are aggressive hunters both during the day and at night. The Black Mamba snake hunts tiny animals by biting once, killing the prey instantly, and then fleeing as the neurotoxic in its venom paralyzes the victim. The Black Mamba snake, however, may stick to its victim upon killing a bird in order to prevent it from flying away.
When hunting, black mamba snakes move swiftly across uneven terrain or along low tree branches. Black mamba snakes can lift their heads 50 centimeters above the ground when crawling and up to a meter off the ground while striking.
Black mamba snakes have excellent eyesight and can hit their victims, including rodents, bats, birds, and lizards, like lightning before killing them with their potent venom.
How do they reproduce?
The period from September to February when mating takes place. The nature of black mambas is polygynandrous (promiscuous).
During the mating season, both male and female snakes mate with several partners. Black mambas are oviparous, which means they reproduce by depositing eggs, like all other reptiles. Six to seventeen eggs are laid by the snake’s female. There is a two to three month incubation period.
The oval-shaped, elongated eggs have lengths of 2.4 in. to 3.1 in. (60 mm to 80 mm) and a diameter of 1.2 in. to 1.4 in. (30 mm to 36 mm).
Females Lay Up to 20 Eggs
Breeding season, which typically occurs in the spring, is a very busy time when males compete with one another and display their power and hostility.
Black mamba males search for possible female mates by traveling great distances along scent trails. The snakes continue living alone after mating by going their own ways.
The female chooses a secure location to lay her eggs, which hatch after approximately three months. Fascinatingly, the mother abandons the eggs, yet the young mambas can survive on their own and develop dangerous venom quickly.
Each fang contains a little amount of venom, just enough to harm and kill any potential attackers. They can also eat on their own and live alone.
Black Mamba Population & Conservation Status
Since there is no proof that their population is in danger and because of their extremely wide distribution in sub-Saharan Africa, they are listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List. People’s fears of snakes and their reputation for aggression are their biggest threats.
Although locals who live close to black mambas frequently kill them out of fear, their primary predators are mongooses, honey badgers, and birds including brown snake eagles, secretary birds, and black-headed herons. They have also been reported to end up in crocodiles’ guts.