Black mamba snakes (Dendroaspis polylepis) are also known as the black-mouthed mamba, southern brown mamba, or black mamba and are some of the most venomous snakes in the world.
The black mamba snake is the largest venomous snake in Africa and the second largest venomous snake in the world, the only other larger snake being the king cobra.The Black Mamba snake is found in eastern Africa, from southern Ethiopia to southwestern Africa.
– CHARACTERISTICS –
Adult black mamba snakes have an average length of 2.5 meters (8.2 feet) and a maximum length of 4.5 meters (14 feet).
The black mamba snake gets its name from the black coloration inside its mouth, rather than the color of its skin, which is a shade of gray to olive.
The black mamba snake is the fastest moving snake in the world, capable of moving up to 20 kilometers per hour (12.5 miles per hour). However, it uses this speed to escape danger, rather than to catch prey.
– HABITAT –
Black mamba snakes mainly live in scrub, and although they are not considered an arboreal species, they can live in shrubs and small trees.
– BEHAVIOR AND DIET –
Black mambas spend the night in holes in the ground, usually disused burrows or hidden deep in fallen rocks or wood.
The snake also flees to these hiding places if alarmed and will attack any creature that blocks the path to its hole.
Like all reptiles, the black mamba snake is cold-blooded and relies on external heat to maintain body temperature.
Therefore, it frequently basks during the day, either on a low branch or on a rock, however, during the summer the snake may be forced to take refuge in its burrow if it gets too hot.
If left undisturbed, black mamba snakes tend to live in their dens for long periods of time, which are often insect mounds or hollow trees.
Black mamba snakes are diurnal snakes that actively hunt for prey day or night. When hunting small animals, the Black Mamba snake takes a single deadly bite and then retreats, hoping the neurotoxin in its venom will paralyze the prey.
However, upon killing a bird, the Black Mamba snake will latch on to its prey, preventing it from flying away.
Black mamba snakes travel quickly over rough terrain or along the low branches of trees when hunting.
Black mamba snakes can hold their heads up to one meter above the ground when they strike and can hold their heads 50 centimeters above the ground even when moving.
Black mamba snakes have very good eyesight and can attack their prey such as rodents, bats, birds and lizards like lightning, letting their powerful venom finish the kill.
– REPRODUCTION –
Breeding usually takes place in late spring or early summer. After mating, the male will return to his home.
The female will then lay between 10 and 25 eggs, usually in decaying vegetation.
Decomposing vegetation gives off heat, which helps warm the eggs and speeds hatching time. The egg shells allow water and oxygen to reach the developing embryos.
Black mamba hatchlings are around 51 centimeters long and gray-green in color. The hatchlings are immediately independent and can take prey the size of a small rat. In a year, they reach 2 meters.
Young black mambas are preyed on by mongooses and even adult black mambas are eaten by the secretary bird and the larger species of eagle.
– POISON –
Black mamba snakes are among the ten most venomous snakes in the world.
The black mamba snake is more than three times more venomous than the Cape cobra, more than five times more venomous than the king cobra, and about forty times more venomous than the Gaboon viper.
Black mamba venom contains powerful, fast-acting neurotoxins (disrupts the normal activity of the nervous system) and cardiotoxins (causes damage to the heart muscle), including calciseptin.
The Black Mambas bite releases around 100 to 120 milligrams of venom on average, however it can release up to 400 milligrams of venom, 10 to 15 milligrams is deadly to an adult human.
Venom is injected through two hollow fangs at the front of the mouth that remain flat until the snake bites, at which point the small movable bones in the mouth erect them. The poison causes rapid paralysis.
Enzymes in the snakes’ saliva begin to digest the prey even before it reaches the stomach, and most prey is digested within a few hours.
In humans, the initial symptom of a bite is local pain in the area of the bite, although not as severe as snakes with hemotoxins (toxins that destroy red blood cells).
The victim then experiences a tingling sensation in the extremities, drooping eyelids (palpebral ptosis), tunnel vision, sweating, excessive salivation, and lack of muscle control (specifically the mouth and tongue).
If the victim does not receive medical attention, symptoms rapidly progress to nausea, shortness of breath, confusion, and paralysis.
Eventually, the victim experiences seizures, respiratory failure, and a coma and dies due to suffocation resulting from paralysis of the muscles used for breathing.
Without treatment, the mortality rate is 100%, the highest among all venomous snakes in the world.