Science Fair Project Encyclopedia
Mambas (family: Elapidae, genus: Dendroaspis) are tree dwelling, extremely rapidly moving snakes of Africa. ("Dendroaspis" is literally "tree snake".) They are highly venomous, their venom containing neurotoxins, which can be fatal to humans without access to proper first aid and subsequent antivenom treatment.
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 grey. It is one of the fastest snakes in the world, capable of going 10 to 12 mph (16 to 20 km/h).
The black mamba is a territorial snake and, while normally retreating from danger, can become very aggressive if it feels threatened, especially if the threat is between the snake and its lair. When in its aggressive mode, it will rear high into the air, arching its back and advancing rapidly, balanced on the rear third of its body, jaws open to reveal the inky black inside of its mouth. 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 a threat it will deliver multiple rapid-fire bites. Death is due to suffocation due to paralysis of the muscles used for breathing.
These snakes reside in hollow insect mounds, abandoned burrows, and rock crevices. They are diurnal, actively hunting their prey of small mammals, birds and lizards, returning to the same lair nightly.
The Western green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) can also be rapidly fatal, although it considered less venomous than the black mamba. They are slightly smaller, and are more arboreal.
- Eastern green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps)
- Jameson mamba (Jameson's mamba, Dendroaspis jamesoni)
- Dendroaspis jamesoni jamesoni
- Dendroaspis jamesoni kaimosea
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