Black mamba

Dendroaspis polylepis

SUBFAMILY

Elapinae

TAXONOMY

Dendroaspis polylepis Günther, 1864, Zambezi River, Mozambique.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

French: Mamba noir; German: Schwarze Mamba.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

The black mamba has a length of 78-118 in (2-3 m). It is a dark olive, gray, or gunmetal color, with a large head and eyes.

DISTRIBUTION

Central and southern Africa.

HABITAT

The black mamba's habitat is highly arboreal but, unlike the green mamba, the species is equally at home on the ground, where it can move very quickly. It prefers low-lying savanna.

BEHAVIOR

The black mamba is generally diurnal but crepuscular in some parts of its range. It often uses a semipermanent home base in holes or cracks in trees or termite mounds for many years. Although considered aggressive, black mambas usually flee if given the opportunity.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

This elapid has a varied diet of small mammals but also feeds on birds and other snakes.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The female lays six to 17 eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not threatened.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS

The black mamba is highly venomous. As recently as the 1960s, bites from the black mamba were almost always fatal. Bites are still dangerous but are treatable if appropriate first aid is initiated and antivenin is administered quickly. ♦

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