Mamba Scientific Classification
- Scientific Name
- Dendroaspis angusticeps, Dendroaspis jamesoni, Dendroaspis polylepis, Dendroaspis viridis
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Mambas are venomous, fast-moving snakes found in Africa that can grow up to 14 feet long.
Known for their venom and fearsome reputation, they are present in many African stories and legends. They are some of the most venomous snakes in Africa. Three of the species live in trees and are green in color, while the black mamba is land-dwelling and grey to brown in color. The black mamba has the deadliest venom of all mamba species and is one of the fastest-moving snakes in the world, slithering at 12.5mph.
Mamba Amazing Facts
- The black mamba is Africa’s longest venomous snake.
- Mambas are in the same family as cobras and coral snakes, Elapidae.
- Untreated black mamba bites have a 100% mortality rate and is called the “kiss of death” or “seven steps.”
- The mamba genus, Dendroaspis, means “tree asp.”
Where To Find Mambas
All four mamba species make their habitats in sub-Saharan Africa, each with its own range. The black mamba is land-dwelling (terrestrial) while the other three are tree-dwelling (arboreal).
Jameson’s mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni)) has a geographic range in Central and West Africa and some parts of East Africa. It has a variety of habitats including rainforests, woodlands, savannahs, and deforested areas up to 7,200ft.
Countries: South Sudan, Gabon, Angola, Zambia, Republic of the Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Cameroon, Equatorial Guinea, Nigeria, Kenya, Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Central African Republic, Benin, Togo, and Ghana.
The eastern green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps), also called the white-mouthed or common mamba, lives in the coastal areas of southern East Africa, Its habitat is the trees on the coast.
Countries: Kenya, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Swaziland, and eastern South Africa.
The western green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis), also called Hallowell’s mamba, lives in western Africa. Its habitat is the trees in the coastal tropical rainforests, woodlands, and thickets.
Countries: southern Senegal, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia, Côte d’Ivoire, Ghana, Togo, Benin, and southwest Nigeria.
The black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) is present in many countries in Central, eastern, and southern Africa, especially the northern regions of southern Africa and the coastal areas of South Africa. Unlike the other mamba species, it lives on land in various habitats, especially savannahs, open woodlands, and rocky hills. It does not live in deserts.
Countries: Cameroon, northern Republic of the Congo, Central African Republic, northeast Democratic Republic of the Congo, southwestern Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Djibouti, Somalia, Kenya, eastern Uganda, Rwanda, Burundi, Tanzania, Mozambique, Swaziland, Malawi, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Botswana to KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, Namibia, northeastern Angola and the southeastern Democratic Republic of the Congo.
The best time of year to find any mamba snake species is during the fighting, breeding and egg-laying seasons, depending on the species and climate of their location. Fighting usually happens in late winter to early spring or during the rainy season, breeding happens in the spring or late fall, and egg-laying happens in the summer or fall. In other words, they are most active during the warmer months. The one season they are not active is the winter when they go into brumation, like a partial sleep for cold-blooded animals. During that time, they go into holes, tree stumps, dens, or caves.
Mamba Scientific Name
There are four species of mamba. The eastern green mamba (Dendroaspis angusticeps) is called the white-mouthed or common mamba, while the western green mamba (Dendroaspis viridis) is called Hallowell’s mamba. Jameson’s mamba (Dendroaspis jamesoni) and black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis) don’t have alternate names, but Jameson’s mamba has 2 subspecies: D. j. jamesoni and D. j. kaimosae.
The mamba genus, Dendroaspis, means “tree asp.” Mambas are in the same family as coral snakes and cobras, Elapidae. Elipidae snakes have a pair of fangs in the upper front jaw of their mouths. They are proteroglyphous, meaning “front-fanged.”
Mamba Population & Conservation Status
The green mamba’s population is unknown and listed by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern, but South Africa lists it as Vulnerable due to habitat destruction and deforestation of its coastal habitats. The western green mamba’s population is stable and listed by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. Jameson’s mamba population is stable and listed by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern. The black mamba’s population is stable and listed by the IUCN Red List as Least Concern.
Mamba snake species do not have many predators except for mongooses and humans, but many more predators early on in their life cycle. Their lifespan is about 11 years in the wild, while their lifespan is captivity is about 18 years. Baby mambas are most vulnerable to predators during the egg or young stages of the life cycle.
How To Identify Mambas: Appearance and Description
How to identify a mamba snake:
- Very fast slithering speed
- Raises a long hood and leans forward when threatened
- The black mamba has a color of grey to dark brown, over 6.6ft and up to 14ft length, coffin-shaped head, and black mouth
- The western green mamba has a slender body and length of 4.6-6.9ft
- The eastern green mamba has a green body and over 6.6ft length
- Jameson’s mamba has a color of dull green with a cream or yellow belly, long, narrow head with small eyes, and 4.9-7.2ft length.
Mamba Venom: How Dangerous Are They?
All mamba species have deadly venom and three species are nervous and aggressive, while the eastern green mamba is shy of humans. Thrir front-facing fangs lie flat in their mouths until they are ready to bite. The western green mamba’s venom can kill with one bite containing neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, and fasciculins. The eastern green mamba’s venom has neurotoxins that if untreated can trigger death by respiratory paralysis in 30 minutes. Jameson’s mamba’s venom has neurotoxins, cardiotoxins, hemotoxins, and mycotoxins, and can kill in 30-120 minutes if left untreated. The black mamba’s bite is called the “kiss of death,” can kill if left untreated and starts causing symptoms in 10 minutes. With a bite from either species, it is up to 12 times the lethal dose in humans and can cause collapse in 45 minutes and death from respiratory failure leading to cardiovascular collapse in 7-15 hours. If you are bitten by a mamba, seek medical attention immediately and ask for mamba antivenom. Lie down with the wound below the heart, remove any jewelry, and cover the wound with loose, sterile bandages.
Mamba Behavior and Humans
Believe it or not, humans are the number predators of mambas rather than the other way around. However, they are highly aggressive when threatened. The eastern green mamba is the only one that is shy and actively avoids humans. On the other hand, humans have attacked mambas after confusing their slithering for chasing after them instead of fleeing away.View all 110 animals that start with M
Mamba FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions)
How many types of mamba snakes are there?
There are four species of mamba snakes.
Is a mamba a snake?
Yes, it is a type of snake referring to the genus Dendroaspis.
Is a mamba a viper?
No, it is in the same family as cobras and coral snakes, but it is probably confused for a viper. Both are venomous and usually brightly-colored snakes.
Are black mambas aggressive?
Yes, when threatened, they are very aggressive. They can bite repeatedly.
Are mambas venomous?
Yes, all are venomous, with the black mamba having the deadliest venom of all.
How do mambas hunt?
Mambas are active especially during the day (diurnal) but predators who hunt during the day or night, so they hunt and bite their prey to kill them with their venom.
Are mambas aggressive?
Three out of the four species are very aggressive, especially when threatened, but at first seem to be timid. The eastern green mamba is shy of humans and actively avoids them, using its camouflage to hide in the trees.
Where do mambas live?
All mambas live in Africa. Three of the four species live in trees, while the black mamba lives on the ground.
What do mambas eat?
How long do mambas live?
Their lifespan is 11 years in the wild, 18 years in captivity. However, in the wild they die early on in their life cycle if predators eat them while they are still in eggs or too young to move fast enough away from them.
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