Name: Black Mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis)
Conservation Status: Least Concern (IUCN 3.1)
Classification and Taxonomy:
Distribution: The black mamba inhabits a wide range in sub-Saharan Africa; its range includes Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Somalia, Kenya, Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi, Rwanda, Mozambique, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, South Africa, Namibia, and Angola.
Habitat: The species prefers moderately dry environments such as light woodland and scrub, rocky outcrops and semi-arid savanna. It also inhabits moist savanna and lowland forests.
Behavior: The black mamba is both terrestrial and arboreal. On the ground, it moves with its head and neck raised, and typically uses termite mounds, abandoned burrows, rock crevices and tree cracks as shelter. Black mambas are diurnal; in South Africa, they are recorded to bask between 7 and 10 am and again from 2 to 4 pm. They may return daily to the same basking site.
Reproduction: Rival males compete by wrestling, attempting to subdue each other by intertwining their bodies and wrestling with their necks. Some observers have mistaken this for courtship. During mating, the male will slither over the dorsal side of the female while flicking its tongue. The female will signal its readiness to mate by lifting its tail and staying still. The male will then coil itself around the posterior end of the female and align its tail ventrolaterally with the female's. Intromission may last longer than two hours and the pair remain motionless apart from occasional spasms from the male. The black mamba is oviparous; the female lays a clutch of 6–17 eggs.
Diet: It mostly preys on small vertebrates such as birds, particularly nestlings and fledglings, and small mammals like rodents, bats, hyraxes and bushbabies.
Predation: Adult mambas have few natural predators aside from birds of prey. Brown snake eagles are verified predators of adult black mambas, of up to at least 2.7 m (8 ft 10 in). Other eagles known to hunt or at least consume grown black mambas include tawny eagles and martial eagles.
Venom: The black mamba is the most feared snake in Africa because of its size, aggression, venom toxicity and speed of onset of symptoms following envenomation, and is classified as a snake of medical importance by the World Health Organization. A survey in South Africa from 1957 to 1979 recorded 2553 venomous snakebites, 75 of which were confirmed as being from black mambas. Of these 75 cases, 63 had symptoms of systemic envenomation and 21 died. Those bitten before 1962 received a polyvalent antivenom that had no effect on black mamba venom, and 15 of 35 people who received the antivenom died.
Dymadex's blogs on reptiles and amphibians. Reptiles are tetrapod animals characterized by scaly skin. Amphibians are ectothermic, tetrapod vertebrates characterized by smooth skin.
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