Species of the week

Black mamba, the most agile and fast snake of the world

Scientific name: Dendroaspis polylepis
Common name: Black Mamba
Class: Reptilia
Order: Squamata
Diet: Small mammals
Average lifetime: 12 years
Size: They reach an average 2,4-3m, reaching up to 4.5m
Weight: Approximately 1.6kg
IUCN category: Least Concern

Physical description

The Dendroaspis polylepis, or simply black mamba is one of the most poisonous snake in the world, with the biggest (size) poisonous snake in Africa and the second largest in the world.
The juveniles have a grey color clear olive, and as they ”get older” become dark, grayish brown olive. They have a neurotoxic venom (so called because it is characterized by attacking the nervous system) which is rapidly absorbed by the blood tissues, causing paralysis of the nerves, especially those that control breathing and heart rate.

Social organization

They are solitary animals, interacting with each other only in breeding seasons or fights between males.

Reproduction

They are oviparous, reproducing in the summer. By this time, the female can lay 6-17 eggs, and it takes 80-90 days to hatch. The male follows female scent trail, and when found it, passes his tongue over her body. It is common during breeding seasons the occurrence of conflicts between males, for the right to mate.
They born with 40-60 cm long and they can reach 2m during the first year. They also born with fully developed venom glands being able to deliver a lethal bite shortly after his birth.

mamba

Ecology

They live mainly on the ground, but they can also climb trees. They can be found in rock crevices, termite nests, hollow trunks, abandoned burrows of some animals in both dry and humid savannah and lowland forest.

Feeding

They are active during the day when they are hunting. Hunting is usually made from a permanent lair, which mamba returns regularly if not disturbed.
It is also the most agile and fast snake of the world, moving at a speed of 11 to 20km/h, speed used to attack their prey, and to escape when threatened.
It feeds on mammals such as mice, squirrels and bats in addition to small birds. Prey are bitten once or twice and mamba waits until the poison have effect. The prey is completely devoured, because of the flexibility of its jaw that allows swallow prey four times larger than his head. Digestion takes on average 8 to 10 hours.
They are preyed upon by birds of prey and other snakes.

Distribution

They are commonly found in sub-Saharan Africa. In countries such as Congo, South Africa , Tanzania , Ethiopia , Mozambique , Zimbabwe , Nigeria, Angola , Kenya, etc.

Threats

The black mamba is a shy animal, which prefers to stay away from human contact. The increase in human population and the invasion of its habitat may be a threat to this species.

Conservation measures

There are no specific measures for the conservation of this species.

Curiosities

They are called black mamba due to coloring inside its mouth.


Sources

IUCN

Marais, J. 2004. Snakes of Southern Africa. Struik Nature Publishers. Cape Town.

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Fantásticos animais do planeta