Black mambas are common in sub-Saharan areas of south and east Africa. They can be found as far north as Eritrea, through South Africa, and as far west as Namibia. Though they are not common in western Africa, there have been individual sightings. These sightings may indicate improper documentation, remaining populations from what was once a larger range, or new populations, indicating a growing range. No information was available on introduced range of this species. (Spawls and Branch, 1995)
- Other Habitat Features
- Range elevation
- 1800 (high) m
- 5905.51 (high) ft
Contrary to their common name, black mambas are not actually black. Dendroaspis angusticeps). Their underbody is cream-colored, sometimes blended with green or yellow. Dark spots or blotches may speckle the back half of the body and some individuals have alternating dark and light scales near the posterior, giving the impression of lateral bars. The inside of the mouth is a dark blue to “inky” black color. The eyes are dark brown to black, with a silvery-white to yellow edge on the pupils. There is disagreement between sources on the exact range of lengths of , but the extreme reported values indicate that adults are 2.0 to 3.0 m, with an average length of 2.2 to 2.7m. Certain sources also claim rare cases of lengths of 4.3 and even 4.5m. Their smooth scales are at mid-body, in 23 to 25 (in some cases 21) rows. (Branch, 1988; FitzSimons, 1970; Marais, 1985; Spawls and Branch, 1995)can be olive, brownish, gray, or sometimes khaki in color. Young snakes are lighter in color, appearing gray or olive green, but are not light enough to be confused with green mambas (
- Sexual Dimorphism
- sexes alike
- Range length
- 2.0 to 3.0 m
- 6.56 to 9.84 ft
- Average length
- 2.2-2.7 m
No specific information was available for (FitzSimons, 1970), but some general assumptions can be made. Black mambas are oviparous. Young incubate inside the eggs for 2 to 3 months after being deposited. They break through the shell with an "egg-tooth". Upon hatching, young are fully functional and can fend for themselves. They have fully developed venom glands, and are dangerous just minutes after birth. The yolk of the egg is absorbed into the body and can nourish the young for quite some time.
Black mambas mate during the early spring. Males will locate a suitable female by following a scent trail. Upon finding his mate, he will thoroughly inspect her by flicking his tongue across her entire body. Males are equipped with hemipenes, or a dual set of penises. Copulation is prolonged. (FitzSimons, 1970; Spawls and Branch, 1995)males will often engage in combat during the mating season. This act involves intertwining their bodies and raising their heads up to 1 m off the ground, which can also be mistaken for mating.
- Mating System
- polygynandrous (promiscuous)
- Breeding interval
- Black mambas breed once yearly.
- Breeding season
- Mating occurs in the early spring, egg-laying during mid-summer.
- Range number of offspring
- 6 to 17
- Range gestation period
- 80 to 90 days
Black mambas do not interact beyond mating and males do not contribute effort to raising offspring. After the eggs have developed inside the female, she will deposit them in a burrow or other suitable hatching location and then abandon them. The young must fend for themselves directly from birth. (FitzSimons, 1970)
- Parental Investment
There is not much information about the lifespan of snakes in the wild. The longest recorded lifespan of a captive mamba was 11 years, but actual lifespans could be much greater. (FitzSimons, 1970)
- Range lifespan
- 11 (high) years
- Range lifespan
- Average lifespan
- 10.1 years
- Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research
- Average lifespan
Communication and Perception
Black mambas feed mostly on small mammals, including rodents, squirrels, and dassies or hyraxes. They also take birds occasionally. Black mambas strike once or twice and wait for the prey to become paralyzed and die before swallowing them. After ingestion, powerful acids digest the prey, sometimes within 8 to 10 hours. (Branch, 1988; FitzSimons, 1970; Marais, 1985; Marais, 1992)
- Primary Diet
- eats terrestrial vertebrates
- Animal Foods
There is no specific information on predators of crocodiles or monitors, large frogs, mongooses, foxes or jackals, birds of prey, and most notably, human beings. Though humans do not usually consume snakes, they often kill them out of fear. Snake eggs are also susceptible to being eaten by many types of scavengers. (FitzSimons, 1970), but snakes in general have many. Predators will mainly target eggs or young snakes and may include: large reptiles such as
Very little information is available on the ecosystem roles of black mambas. They are important in controlling rodent populations. (FitzSimons, 1970)
Economic Importance for Humans: Positive
Though many snakes are kept in captivity as pets, this is generally a bad idea with a snake as dangerous as (FitzSimons, 1970), so it can be assumed that they are not a valuable commodity in the pet trade industry. In fact, there have been reports of black mambas delivering fatal or near-fatal bites to well-informed captors. Their diet of mostly small rodents helps control pest populations to some extent.
- Positive Impacts
- controls pest population
Economic Importance for Humans: Negative
- Negative Impacts
- bites or stings
Black mambas are not endangered in any way, however, they do face a future threat due to human expansion. They are nervous animals and prefer to stay far away from humans. Human population expansion into their habitat could cause considerable habitat destruction and conflicts with human interests. (FitzSimons, 1970)
Tanya Dewey (editor), Animal Diversity Web.
Pamela Rasmussen (editor, instructor), Michigan State University, Randy Schott (author), Michigan State University.
living in sub-Saharan Africa (south of 30 degrees north) and Madagascar.
uses sound to communicate
Referring to an animal that lives in trees; tree-climbing.
an animal that mainly eats meat
uses smells or other chemicals to communicate
- active during the day, 2. lasting for one day.
union of egg and spermatozoan
forest biomes are dominated by trees, otherwise forest biomes can vary widely in amount of precipitation and seasonality.
having a body temperature that fluctuates with that of the immediate environment; having no mechanism or a poorly developed mechanism for regulating internal body temperature.
offspring are produced in more than one group (litters, clutches, etc.) and across multiple seasons (or other periods hospitable to reproduction). Iteroparous animals must, by definition, survive over multiple seasons (or periodic condition changes).
- native range
the area in which the animal is naturally found, the region in which it is endemic.
reproduction in which eggs are released by the female; development of offspring occurs outside the mother's body.
the kind of polygamy in which a female pairs with several males, each of which also pairs with several different females.
Referring to something living or located adjacent to a waterbody (usually, but not always, a river or stream).
- seasonal breeding
breeding is confined to a particular season
remains in the same area
reproduction that includes combining the genetic contribution of two individuals, a male and a female
uses touch to communicate
Living on the ground.
defends an area within the home range, occupied by a single animals or group of animals of the same species and held through overt defense, display, or advertisement
the region of the earth that surrounds the equator, from 23.5 degrees north to 23.5 degrees south.
- tropical savanna and grassland
A terrestrial biome. Savannas are grasslands with scattered individual trees that do not form a closed canopy. Extensive savannas are found in parts of subtropical and tropical Africa and South America, and in Australia.
A grassland with scattered trees or scattered clumps of trees, a type of community intermediate between grassland and forest. See also Tropical savanna and grassland biome.
- temperate grassland
A terrestrial biome found in temperate latitudes (>23.5° N or S latitude). Vegetation is made up mostly of grasses, the height and species diversity of which depend largely on the amount of moisture available. Fire and grazing are important in the long-term maintenance of grasslands.
an animal which has an organ capable of injecting a poisonous substance into a wound (for example, scorpions, jellyfish, and rattlesnakes).
movements of a hard surface that are produced by animals as signals to others
uses sight to communicate
Branch, B. 1988. Field Guide to the Snakes and Other Reptiles of Southern Africa. Cape Town: Struik Publishers.
FitzSimons, V. 1970. A Field Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa. London: Collins.
Marais, J. 1992. A Complete Guide to the Snakes of Southern Africa. Halfway House: Southern Book Publishers.
Marais, J. 1985. Snake Versus Man. Johannesburg: Macmillan South Africa.
Spawls, S., B. Branch. 1995. The Dangerous Snakes of Africa. London: Blandford.