Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is the normal name given to one of the most perilous snakes on the planet. With a narrow and very long body, it represents the most poisonous on the entire African continent.
There are two types of mambas that develop in southern Africa:
Dendroaspis polylepis or black mamba and Dendroaspis angusticeps or green mamba, are both very different in appearance and behavior, but similar in the high damage to health that the components of their venom can cause.
The black mamba is not the color that bears its name, but rather it is a beautiful reptile with dark gray or olive-brown skin that easily camouflages itself in the elements of its environment. It measures two to three meters in length and maintains an average weight of 1.6 kg, although there are exceptions of specimens that stand out from most individuals with dimensions of up to 4.5 m in length. It has a smooth and flat skin, made up of 23 to 25 rows of scales.
Some characteristics that distinguish it from other venomous snakes are the black inside of its mouth and its head in the shape of a box or sarcophagus with a very pronounced frontal crest. It is not actually perceived as a threatening or very conspicuous animal compared to other snakes that are brightly colored or more aggressive in temperament, but with a mamba, you have to take precautions.
Black mamba venom:
We cannot end without highlighting the neurotoxic capacity of Dendroaspis polylepis venom: this species has a 100% bite fatality rate if the patient is not treated. Such high efficiency is very rare in the world of reptiles and, for this reason; it is considered the second most venomous snake in the world with respect to its size.
Curiously, the Dendroaspis polylepis venom does not contain protease enzymes and, therefore, does not generate localized necrosis. In any case, this liquid is rich in dendrotoxins, which inhibit receptors and nerve circuits. Due to the speed of the animal, the patient may not even be aware of the bite, but the symptoms arrive in about 10 minutes.
The first clinical signs are a drooping of the eyelids (ptosis) and a metallic taste in the mouth. Little by little, the patient experiences progressive paralysis, which manifests itself with difficulty breathing, inability to swallow, blurred vision, and, finally, respiratory arrest. Without treatment, collapse occurs in about 45 minutes.
As you have seen, the black mamba has the tools to scare the bravest. Its venom is extremely lethal on its own, but its speed and grace when it comes to biting make this reptile a true killing machine. Like any animal, it deserves respect and conservation efforts, but in this case, always from afar.
DISTRIBUTION AND HABITAT:
It covers several regions of Africa, ranging from sub-Saharan Africa to northeastern South Africa. Some countries where they are found are Botswana, Cameroon, Kenya, Namibia, Somalia, Tanzania, and Zambia.
It is found in wooded savannahs or riparian forests, with the presence of abundant rocky hills and huge trees, but it can also adapt to dry savannahs. It is usually seen gliding along the ground most of the time, but it is not uncommon to see it on high branches.
It feeds on small mammals such as rats, squirrels, hyrax rats (Petromus typicus), various types of birds, and smaller, less dangerous snakes.
It is diurnal in habit and has been observed to hunt by ambush or by detecting on the ground, going to dens or nests. Depending on the prey, sometimes a single bite is enough to secure food. The black mamba bites and releases the prey without losing sight of it, because, in a few minutes, the poison will do its job by paralyzing body movement and causing death.
They have an excellent metabolism that allows them to digest their food for between eight and ten hours, as long as it is a regular prey such as a rodent or other species of similar size.
Despite its dangerous characteristics for man, the black mamba is not an aggressive species and firstly chooses to flee when it detects enemies around it, but when it is already cornered, it does not hesitate to become defensive, show the inside of its mouth and launch itself to the fatal bite. So it can be said that he only uses his defense mechanisms when he feels that his life is in danger.
They breed once a year in early spring, and it is the males who locate available females by scent. These can fight each other to get the mating right, but it is not with bite throws as you might think, but with body interlocks and head and body parts raising to look larger.
Summer is the preferred season for laying their eggs, the number of which ranges between 6 and 17. The young regularly measure 400 to 600 mm in length and within minutes of hatching, they already produce lethal poison. They grow up to two meters in just one year and a life expectancy of 11 years is estimated.