The Venomous Mambas Of Africa: How Many Species Are There?

A black mamba feeding on its prey.
A black mamba feeding on its prey.

Mambas are highly venomous, fast-moving snakes belonging to the family Elapidae and genus Dendroaspis, and are endemic to Africa. The mambas are known for their fierce reputation and killer venom and are feared throughout their range in sub-Saharan Africa. There are currently four extant species of mambas of which three are essentially arboreal and green in color. Only the black mamba is primarily terrestrial in nature and colored gray to dark brown.

4. Western green mamba -

The western green mamba or the Hallowell’s green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) is a highly venomous mamba species which is found in the thickets, woodlands, and coastal tropical rainforests of western Africa. The snake is a highly arboreal species that can swiftly move between trees in pursuit of prey. The snakes are long and slender-bodied and attain a length between 4.6 feet and 6.9 feet. The neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and fasciculins present in the venom of the western green mamba can kill adult humans with a single bite if the victim is left untreated. Some claim that the snakes have a nervous and aggressive nature that leads to quick snake bites when threatened.

3. Black mamba -

The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is a species of mamba that is found in sub-Saharan Africa. Though named as the black mamba, this species has a color that varies from gray to dark brown. The black mamba is Africa’s longest venomous snake, and mature individuals attain a length greater than 6.6 feet. The black mamba, unlike other mamba species, is not generally arboreal in nature but live on land in a range of terrains. The snakes prey on small mammals like bushbabies and hyrax and also birds. The snake is an expert ambush and pursuit predator. The black mamba is also regarded as the speediest of all snakes and can move at speeds of 11 km per hour over short distances. The inky black mouth of this snake gives it the name of black mamba, and it has a reputation of being highly aggressive. The highly poisonous venom of this snake can kill adult humans easily. However, since the black mamba's range has limited overlaps with human settlement, human snake bite reports are rare. Still, the black mamba is regarded as the most feared snake in the continent and the locals refer to its bite as the “kiss of death.”

2. Jameson's mamba -

The Jameson's mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni) is a highly arboreal, quick, and extremely venomous snake that is endemic to Africa. The snake occurs primarily in Central and West Africa and some parts of East Africa. These snakes are found in a wide range of habitats within their range which includes rainforests, savanna, woodlands, and also deforested areas up to altitudes of 7,200 feet. The Jameson’s mamba attains an average length of 4.9 feet to 7.2 feet, have a dull green colored dorsal surface and cream or yellowish colored ventral surface. The snakes possess narrow and elongated heads with small eyes. Birds form the major part of the diet of these snakes. The venom of this snake is a potent cocktail of neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, hemotoxins, and myotoxins. Untreated bites might trigger death in human victims within 30 to 120 minutes.

1. Eastern green mamba -

The eastern green mamba or the common mamba or the white-mouthed mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps) is a highly venomous, tree-dwelling, large mamba snake which lives in southern East Africa’s coastal regions. Adult females are longer than males and have an average length of 6.6 feet. These snakes prey on bats, birds, rodents, and eggs. Unlike other mamba species, the eastern green mamba is shy and elusive in nature. The green color of these snakes easily camouflages them among the trees. The venom of the eastern green mamba is a potent neurotoxin which affects the nerves, muscles, and heart, and triggers quick death by respiratory paralysis. The snake bite in adult humans can kill within 30 minutes and has high mortality rates.

The Venomous Mambas Of Africa: How Many Species Are There?

RankSpeciesSubspeciesCommon name
1Dendroaspis angusticeps0Eastern green mamba
2Dendroaspis jamesoni2Jameson's mamba
3Dendroaspis polylepis0Black mamba
4Dendroaspis viridis0Western green mamba

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