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The Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is the largest venomous snake in Africa, with an average length around 8 feet (2.5 m), but may grow to over 14 feet (4.5 m). It got its name because of the black inside of its mouth; the actual color of the skin is varied: dull yellowish-green to a gun-metal gray. It is one of the fastest snakes in the world, capable of moving at 10 to 12 mph (16 to 20 km/h).


 

Killer Snake: The Black Mamba is a territorial snake and will normally retreat from danger. However, this snake will become very aggressive if it feels threatened, especially if the threat is standing between the snake and its lair. When in its aggressive mode, the mamba will rear its head as high as possible, even sometimes being able to look directly into the eyes of an averaged sized human depending on the snake's size. It will arch its back and advance rapidly while balanced on the rear third of its body, jaws open to reveal the inky black inside of its mouth while hissing very aggressively. Its bite delivers about 100 mg of venom; 10 to 15 mg is deadly to a human adult. When hunting small animals it delivers a single bite and backs off, waiting for the nerve toxin in its venom to paralyze the prey. If the prey is a bird, it will usually hang on to the bird waiting for the venom to take effect. If fighting off a threat, it will deliver multiple deadly strikes. Death is due to suffocation resulting from paralysis of the muscles used for breathing. Even though its venom is not the most toxic gram for gram, due to its aggressive nature and large quantity of venom delivered as well as its speed, it is widely regarded as the most dangerous snake in the world.

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Snake's Lair: Black Mambas spend their nights in holes in the ground - usually disused burrows - or hiding deep among fallen rocks or timber. These hiding places are also fled to by the snake if it becomes alarmed and it will attack any creature blocking the path to its hole.

Cold Blooded: Like all reptiles, the Black Mamba is cold blooded, and relies on external heat to maintain its body temperature. Therefore, it frequently basks in the sun during the day, either on a low branch or a rock, but during the summer, the snake may be forced to take cover in its burrow if it becomes too hot.

Eagle Eyes: Black Mambas travel quickly across rough ground or along low tree branches when hunting. They are able to hold their heads up to 1m above the ground when striking, and can hold them 50cm above the ground even when moving. They have very good eyesight and can strike their prey - rodents, bats, birds and lizards like lightning, leaving their powerful venom to finish off the kill.

The venom is injected through two hollow fangs at the front of its mouth which lie flat until the snake bites something, at which point small, movable mouth bones erect them. The venom causes rapid paralysis. Enzymes in the snake's saliva start to digest the prey before it even reaches the stomach, and most prey is digested within a few hours.

The Black Mamba is the second longest venomous snake in the world, and is also the fastest moving snake in the world; it can go up to twenty-three miles per hour.

Snake Stories: Stories abound about Black Mambas chasing people for miles and visiting houses to kill every single person inside. All are exaggerations. Black Mambas are not as fierce as people describe them. They only use their speed as a defense mechanism to get away from any possible threat. In captivity Black Mambas are docile and appreciative animals that show a fantastic and active behavior when housed in a big enclosure the right way.


Summer Romance: Breeding takes place in spring and early summer. Males may travel long distances looking for females. After mating, the snakes return to their own holes. Females lay between 10 and 25 eggs, usually in decaying vegetation. The decomposition of the vegetation gives off heat, which helps to warm the eggs and speed up hatching time. The shells of the eggs allow water and oxygen to reach the developing embryos.

Mamba Babies: Black Mamba hatchlings are around 51cm long, and grayish-green in color. They are independent immediately and can catch prey the size of a small rat. Within a year, they reach 2m. Young mambas are eaten by mongooses, and even adult mambas are eaten by the secretary bird and larger species of eagle.

The Black Mamba can grow to a maximum size of around 14 feet, but the average size is about 3. It has an average lifespan of up to twelve years in captivity. Foods in the diet of the Black Mamba include: Lizards, birds, rodents and other small mammals.

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 Kingdom: Animalia

 Phylum: Chordata

 Class: Reptilia

 Order: Squamata

 Suborder: Serpentes

 Family: Elapidae

 Genus: Dendroaspis

 Species: Polylepsis