The black mamba is the world’s second-longest venomous snake. It is found throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, and is at home both in the trees and on the ground. The species is much-feared due to the potency of its venom and its large size.
Read on for more black mamba facts, pictures and information…
Black Mamba Facts At A Glance
- Scientific name: Dendroaspis polylepis
- Type of Animal: Reptile
- Animal Family: Elapidae
- Where Found: Sub-Saharan Africa
- Length: 2 to 3 m (6.6 to 9.8 ft.)
- Average Weight: 6 kg (3.5 lb.)
- Conservation Status: Least Concern
What Does The Black Mamba Look Like?
Growing to lengths of up to 3 m (9.8 ft.), with individuals of 4.5 m (14.8 ft.) having been reported, the black mamba is the world’s second-longest venomous snake.
The black mamba has a long thin body and is typically 2 to 3 m (6.6 to 9.8 ft.) in length. The species’ name comes not from the color of its body (see below), but from the bluish-gray / inky-black color of the inside of its mouth.
Body color is highly variable between individuals. Black mambas can be olive green, olive brown, light or dark gray, yellowish brown, or a range of similar shades. The undersides are pale gray / whitish. Some individuals may be darker towards the tail, with dark, diagonal markings.
Young black mambas are usually lighter in color than adults, growing darker as they mature.
The black mamba’s head is long and slender. Its eyes are dark and the round pupils are surrounded by a lighter-colored ring. The species’ black mouth houses a pair of needle-like fangs positioned at the front of the mouth.
Currently, two subspecies of black mamba are recognized: D. P. polylepis and D. P. antinori.
Distribution: Where Does The Black Mamba Live?
The black mamba is widely distributed in sub-Saharan Africa, with a range (the area in which it is found) covering much of the southern and eastern parts of the continent.
Although the species has also been reported in western Africa, it is currently unknown whether or not the snake is established there.
Black Mamba Habitat
The black mamba may be found in a variety of habitats, including savanna, woodland, riverine forest, scrub and coastal bushland. The snake prefers relatively dry habitats and is often associated with rocky slopes and large trees.
The species typically occurs at elevations below 1,000 m (3,300 ft.), although in Kenya it has been observed at about 1,800 m (5,900 ft.) above sea level.
The black mamba is active during the day. It spends several hours basking both in the morning and in the afternoon, often returning to the same basking site day after day.
The species is solitary, with little or no interaction between individuals taking place outside of the mating season.
Although not considered territorial the species does has a home range, often with a permanent lair. The snake will shelter in abandoned burrows, hollow trees, rock crevices and termite mounds.
The black mamba is generally shy and secretive. It will usually flee and attempt to hide if potential danger is detected.
If confronted or cornered, the snake will raise the front third of its body off the ground, spread its thin, cobra-like neck flap and open its jaws to display the inside of its mouth. The threat display can also include tongue flicking and hissing.
The black mamba can climb trees but spends most of its time on the ground, keeping its neck held up while it moves.
The species is known as the fastest snake in Africa; it can reach a maximum speed of 20 km/h (12.5 mph) in short bursts.
Black Mamba Life Cycle
The black mamba usually mates in the spring. During the mating season, the species is more active as it roams around searching for potential mates.
Male mambas may engage in wrestling matches. This involves that snakes twisting around one other with their necks held above the ground as they attempt to overpower their opponent.
A female black mamba signals that she is receptive by lifting her tail and staying still. Mating may last over 2 hours, during which the male and female stay intertwined and move very little.
Around 2 months after mating, the female lays a clutch of 6 to 17 oval eggs inside a damp burrow. The eggs are 6 to 8 cm (2.4 to 3.1 in) in length. The incubation period is 2 to 3 months.
The hatchlings are 40 to 60 cm (16 to 24 in) in length and grow fast, reaching lengths of 2 m (6.6 ft.) within a year. Even juveniles possess potent venom.
Black Mamba Facts: Diet
The black mamba prefers warm-blooded prey and mainly hunts small mammals such as squirrels and other rodents, rabbits, bats, hyraxes and bushbabies. The snake also consumes birds (mostly nestlings and fledglings) and other snakes.
The snake strikes its prey once or twice and then waits for the venom to act before swallowing the lifeless animal whole. The mamba can dislocate its jaws in order to swallow larger prey. It takes around 8 to 10 hours for the black mamba to fully digest a meal.
Black Mamba Predators
Although the black mamba has very few natural predators, there are some animals that are resistant to the snake’s venom or able to avoid being bitten. Species that may pose a threat to the black mamba include the mongoose, honey badger and some birds of prey.
Black mamba eggs are more vulnerable to predation and are consumed by variety of animals, including monitor lizards, large frogs, jackals and foxes.
Is The Black Mamba Dangerous To Humans?
The black mamba is one of the most feared snakes in the world due to its highly potent venom and aggressive reputation. Although the species is generally secretive and tends to shy away from humans it will defend itself if cornered or startled by sudden movement.
When attacking, the snake will strike fast and deliver several bites in quick succession.
The neurotoxins in black mamba venom can induce symptoms in under 10 minutes. If not treated with anti-venom, black mamba bites are often fatal.
Is The Black Mamba Endangered?
The black mamba is rated ‘Least Concern’ by the IUCN.
The species is widely distributed and no significant declines or specific threats have been identified.