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The Black Mamba: The African Shadow of Death

The black mamba is no doubt among the top ten deadliest snakes on the planet.

The black mamba, scientifically known as Dendroaspis polylepis, is widely accepted as among the planet’s deadliest snakes, earning it the moniker ‘the shadow of death’ in certain regions of Africa. So deadly is it that the black mamba’s abilities had been the subject of exaggeration by widely held African stories of the snake being capable of raising its body off the ground to tower an adult human intimidatingly, of it being able to kill someone within a mere ten minutes with one bite, and so on. Truth is, black mambas can only raise their heads off the ground to a third of their body length, usually measuring at most 14 feet, and only do so whenever threatened.

black mamba

The black mamba

Not only is the black mamba regarded possibly as one of the world’s most lethal serpents, it is also among the fastest, slithering at speeds of at maximum 20 kilometres per hour. Its frequency covers major grassland regions of eastern and southern Africa. The black mamba’s diet mainly includes small birds, reptiles and rodents. It usually hunts for prey with its forked tongue during both day and night, making it a diurnal hunter, though it should be noted that they tend to stay in their dens for hours on end.

The black mamba’s method of intimidation in the event of a confrontation also consists of spreading out its neck-flaps, letting out a loud hiss and opening its black mouth wide, showing its lethal fangs in the process. It is especially known for setting upon whatever dared to confront it in the first place with repeated strikes, injecting into its unfortunate victim a whopping 400 milligrams of venom, neurotoxin and cardiotoxin being its main ingredients, respectively attacking the victim’s nervous and cardiac system. Those bitten by the black mamba should be subjected immediately to a particular dose of antivenin before it is too late. Before there was even such a thing as antivenin, death is the fate usually met by those unfortunate few. Due to as yet being deprived of said antivenin, deaths caused by black mamba bites remain frequent among rural communities in Africa living far away from civilization.

Like almost all reptiles, black mambas tend to leave their eggs unguarded till they hatch. Their offspring is then left to fend for itself. One fascinating trait newborn black mambas evince is that they could grow at a quicker rate than other newborn snakes, and as such, upon hatching, they are able to hunt for prey as large as rats.

Other intriguing points to take note of about the black mamba:

1. The black mamba is not named after the colour of its body, which is usually either olive or grey; rather, it derives its name from its black mouth.

2. The black mamba plays an important role in the event of pest control despite the exaggerated beliefs surrounding it.

References:

1. http://www.africanreptiles-venom.co.za/black_mamba.html

2. http://www.blackmambas.net/

3. http://animals.nationalgeographic.com/animals/reptiles/black-mamba.html

Related keywords: gila monster lizard
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Comments (3)

Another good entry about snake, thanks.

Thanks a lot about telling this way of death.

kay

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