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Episode 223: The Shy but Deadly Black Mamba

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We head back to Africa to highlight one of the continents deadliest snakes, the Black Mamba. The Black Mamba is revered and also feared throughout the portions of southern and eastern Africa where it inhabits. Not only is it is one of the world’s deadliest snakes, its also one of its largest. In fact, the Black Mamba is the world’s second longest venomous snakes, right behind the King Cobra. Their cocktail of venom is very deadly to other animals and humans alike. However, they are not responsible for many of the deaths in Africa due to snake bites. Still the Black Mamba has a well-deserved deadly reputation and is not one to be messed with. Like almost any snake, they are very shy and look to avoid people. A beautiful reptile that deserves understanding and our respect.

Black Mamba History

The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is part of the Family Elapidae. These snakes known as “elapids” inhabit tropical regions around the world. There are approximately 55 genera and over 360 species of elapids. Some other famous elapids include the cobras, sea snakes, sea kraits, taipans and others. The Black Mamba is from the genus Dendroaspis, which includes all the Mambas. The others include:

  • Eastern Green Mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)
  • Western Green Mamba (Dendroaspis viridis)
  • Jameson’s Mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni)

Snakes first evolved in southern England roughly 175 million years ago. Scientists are still debating why exactly these reptiles lost their limbs, but obviously the evolutionary strategy worked as snakes have successfully survived this long. It was not until the last mass extinction until snakes really thrives, roughly 65 million years ago. The first venomous snake was first thought to inhabit Africa 25 million years ago. An early ancestor to the elapids.

Black Mamba Facts

They get their name not because they are black, but because of their black mouths. The Black Mamba is the second largest venomous snake in the world at almost 14 feet (4.25 meters). It is only eclipsed by the King Cobra that can get as long as 19 feet (6 meters). What is also fascinating is the Black Mamba is one of the fastest snakes in the world. With a speed of up to 12 MPH (19 KPH). Over distance they slow down to 7 MPH (12 KPH). However, the average human run speed over distance is 6 MPH (10 KPH). Thus, you cant outrun a Black Mamba. Still, Black Mambas are extremely shy and will do everything they can to avoid people.

These snakes live on average 10-11 years in the wild, and nearly 20 years under human care. They are preyed upon by birds of prey, to include hornbills! They also are killed by mongoose, honey badgers and even crocodiles. The prey of the Black Mamba is generally rodents, but they may eat reptiles and birds.

The Black Mamba is feared by many, for good reason. While they are not aggressive, if they do bite, without treatment it is almost always 100% fatal for people. They are ranked #20 on the world’s toxic venom list. Their cocktail of venom is made up of 41 different proteins, all acting to paralyze and kill their prey. However, there are reports of people surviving Black Mamba bites for up to two hours. Anti-venom is the reason many of these people survive.

Black Mamba Conservation

These snakes are Least Concern and have stable populations. Conservationist are concerned as humans invade Black Mamba habitat, there are more conflicts.



June 01, 2021
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