Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba: What’s the Difference?

Gaboon Viper
© Danita Delimont/Shutterstock.com

Written by Brandi Allred

Updated: April 7, 2023

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Key Facts

  • Gaboon vipers have the longest fangs of any venomous snake.
  • Although green mambas are venomous, they are by no means as dangerous as their cousins, black mambas.
  • Gaboon vipers have heavy bodies and live in Central Africa, while green mambas are slender and live in East Africa. 

There are many species of venomous snakes in Africa, but two are more distinct than the rest. These are the gaboon viper and the green mamba. The two snakes aren’t just unique—they’re about as different from one another as two snakes can be. 

Gaboon vipers famously have the longest fangs of any venomous snake—anywhere! They can grow up to two inches long, and fold neatly back into the gaboon viper’s huge mouth. Green mambas might just be the longest, greenest, shyest snakes in Africa. They’re venomous, but not nearly as deadly as their cousin, the black mamba.

Read on to learn more about the differences between gaboon vipers and green mambas.

Comparing Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba

The key difference between the gaboon viper and the green mamba is in their body size.
Gaboon ViperGreen Mamba
Size4-7 feet; 20-45 pounds4-7 feet; 2-3 pounds
AppearanceIntricate brown, black, and tan patterns, very heavy body and wide headBright green, with a slender body
Location and HabitatCentral Africa; terrestrial, forestsDisjointed parts of Eastern Africa; arboreal, forests
BehaviorNocturnal, slow-moving, nonaggressiveDiurnal, shy
Lifespan15-20 years12-14 years

Key Differences Between Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba

black mamba vs green mamba

Green mamba has substantially smaller fangs.

©iStock.com/through-my-lens

The key differences between the gaboon viper and the green mamba are in their size, appearance, lifespan, and behavior. Gaboon vipers are brown and heavy, and green mambas are green and thin. Furthermore, gaboon vipers live on the ground, whereas green mambas live in the trees. Gaboon vipers are currently listed as Vulnerable, while green mambas are listed as Least Concern. Envenomating bites from either snake can cause serious complications, and may even prove fatal.

Let’s take a closer look at the exact differences between gaboon viper and green mamba.

Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba: Appearance

Gaboon viper on the ground

The gaboon viper has an extremely broad, leaf-shaped head.

©Stu Porter/Shutterstock.com

When it comes to the gaboon viper and the green mamba, the key difference is in their appearance. Gaboon vipers are heavyset snakes, with very broad, leaf-shaped heads. Their eyes are pale, with vertically elliptical pupils. Their bodies are covered in varied patterns made up of tan, light brown, dark brown, and black scales. The patterns include rectangles, ‘x’ marks, squiggly lines, and diamond shapes. All of these different patterns help the gaboon viper blend into the leaf litter on the forest floor with ease.

Aside from lacking legs and having scales, green mambas look almost nothing like gaboon vipers. Green mambas have long, thin bodies built for climbing in the trees. Their backs and sides are bright green, while their bellies tend toward pale yellow. They have black eyes with round pupils. Also, green mambas lack the gargantuan fangs of gaboon vipers.

Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba: Location and Habitat

The green mamba is a long, slender bodied snake with smooth scales and a narrow, coffin-shaped head.

The green mamba spends its time in the trees.

©Dominyk Lever/Shutterstock.com

Both the gaboon viper and the green mamba live in forested areas. Green mambas live in only a few areas of coastal eastern Africa. Because of their color, they blend in well with the leaves of their arboreal home. Gaboon vipers live across much of west-central Africa, as well as some parts of eastern Africa. 

While green mambas spend their lives high in the trees, gaboon vipers are simply too heavy to climb. Instead, gaboon vipers spend their time on the forest floor, waiting for prey to walk by. They may be heavy, but gaboon vipers are actually some of the fastest strikers on the planet.

Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba: Size

Gaboon vipers are among the heaviest venomous snakes.

©frantic00/Shutterstock.com

In terms of size and weight, the gaboon viper and the green mamba are pretty different. Gaboon vipers almost never exceed five feet in length, while green mambas can reach eight feet long. But, the differences don’t stop there. Gaboon vipers are among the heaviest of all venomous snakes and can grow upwards of 25 pounds. Green mambas are just the opposite—despite their great length, they usually weigh less than five pounds.

Gaboon vipers and green mambas look about as different as two snakes can look from one another. Where the gaboon viper is short and squat, the green mamba is long and thin. Green mambas have bright green scales, with no patterning. Gaboon vipers have scales in just about every shade of brown, all placed to create a distinct pattern. Further, green mambas have narrow heads, and small fangs, while gaboon vipers have very wide heads, and huge fangs.

Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba: Behavior

A head shot of an eastern green mamba in a tree

Both the gaboon viper and the green mamba are nonaggressive and prefer to stay away from humans and other threats.

©Henner Damke/Shutterstock.com

Both the gaboon viper and the green mamba are shy snakes, that would rather stay hidden, or flee than fight. In terms of diet, the gaboon viper differs from the green mamba. Gaboon vipers live, and hunt, on the forest floor. They’ll eat anything from amphibians and birds, to rodents and medium-sized mammals. Occasionally, they’ll even eat a monkey or royal antelope. Green mambas, on the other hand, eat birds and bird eggs almost exclusively. They’ve also been known to eat bats and arboreal lizards.

Gaboon Viper vs Green Mamba: Lifespan

The biggest difference between the lifespan of the gaboon viper and the lifespan of the green mamba is in longevity. Gaboon vipers live, on average, a little bit longer than green mambas. The green mamba’s lifespan is 12-14 years, whereas the gaboon viper’s lifespan is 15-20 years.

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About the Author

Brandi is a professional writer by day and a fiction writer by night. Her nonfiction work focuses on animals, nature, and conservation. She holds degrees in English and Anthropology, and spends her free time writing horror, scifi, and fantasy stories.

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