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Saturday, October 7, 2017

Species Fact Profile: Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)

Black Mamba
Dendroaspis polylepis (Gunther, 1864)

Range: Sub-Saharan Africa (less common in Western Africa)
Habitat: Wooded Savannah, Rocky Hills
Diet: Small Mammals, Birds
Social Grouping: Asocial outside of mating.  Maintain home ranges, but not highly territorial and will share dens with other mambas or other snakes
Reproduction: Breeds October and November.  Females lay up to 17 white, elongated eggs (often inside a termite mound) 2-3 months after mating, which hatch after 80-90 days.  Young receive no parental care after eggs are laid
Lifespan: 11 Years (Wild), 20 Years (Captivity)
Conservation Status: IUCN Least Concern

  • Africa's largest venomous snake, up to 4.3 meters long (usually up to 2.5 meters) and weighing up to 1.6 kilograms.  The body is long and slender with a narrow head (often described as "coffin shaped").  Second longest venomous snake after the king cobra
  • Olive-brown to grey in color; the common name is believed to refer to the inside of the mouth, which is black or dark blue.  Underside is light gray.  Younger snakes are lighter than old ones
  • Considered the world's fastest snake, though its speeds are often exaggerated - it can move at 20 kilometers per hour for a short distance
  • If threatened and unable to retreat, the mamba will rear up (sometimes enough to look a person in the eye), open its mouth, and expand the skin of its neck into a narrow, cobra-like hood
  • Short, fixed fangs deliver a potent neurotoxin/cardiotoxin mix, capable of killing an adult human within 20 minutes.  Venom causes paralysis, causing death through respiratory failure.
  • Active by day, often basking in trees in the morning before hunting (climbs well, but is less arboreal than the green mambas), retiring to a refuge such as a hollow log, termite mound, or rock crevice at night; this lair may be permanent
  • Males compete for females by intertwining their bodies and wrestling; they do not use their venom when fighting each other
  • Originally divided into two subspecies, now considered to be one.  Previously considered to be the same species as the green mambas, though they are now recognized as distinct.
  • Latin name translates as "Tree Cobra with Many Scales"

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