I never thought this would be one of the animals I wrote about for this blog (I do not like snakes!), but we’ve just learned something about them that is truly amazing.
First, what is a Black Mamba and why is it special? The Black Mamba of Africa is named after the color of the inside of its mouth: inky black. The rest of its body is a gray color; all the better to blend in. They hunt in trees and, being cold-blooded, they like to hunt during the heat of the day.
The Black Mamba is well known for a couple of reasons:
- it’s big; 2.5 to 4.3 meters [7-14 feet] long
- it’s fast. It can move at speeds of 12.5 mph (20 kph)
- it’s deadly. You’re dead in 20 minutes without an anti-venom shot.
- it’s temperamental. The Mamba has a reputation for being nervous and territorial; it will attack when it feels threatened without an escape route.
Africa seems to have an unfair number of mean, deadly creatures. They are all scared of the Mamba! Of course, this isn’t the way a Mamba would tell the story; they just like to be left alone and are too skinny (3.5lb [1.6kg] adult weight) to deal with danger in any other way. If it’s either the snake or the other creature, can you really blame them?
Although the Black Mamba can eat something 4 times the size of its head, it doesn’t really want to bother bigger creatures like lions and people. Its favorite foods are much smaller.
Mambas are especially fond of rodents and birds. They even eat Hyraxs. :-( Most things they bite and then watch until the venom has slowed down their struggle. Birds, they hold on to; who wants to have to spend extra energy chasing down their airborne lunch?
Here’s where it gets interesting:
We have just learned that Black Mamba venom contains not just deadly stuff, but a powerful pain-killer. Many other snake venoms cause more pain, but the Mamba’s does the opposite. Researchers have already tested mice with the stuff the Mamba puts out, called mambalgins (scientific names aren’t that mysterious). It works.
Of course, the scientists don’t care much whether lab mice are in pain or not (or they wouldn’t use them), but they do care about people. They are hoping to develop drugs that are as powerful as morphine to help hurting people. The Mamba’s drug doesn’t seem to have a lot of the bad side effects that morphine and other powerful pain-killers do.
Now, let’s think about his for a minute. We have a deadly animal-eater who turns out to inject a pain-stopper into its victims. Why? Does it make the meat tastier? Would the Mamba even know, since it doesn’t chew its food?
Is there some Evolutionary explanation to say that the Mamba was more likely to survive because it developed a complicated pain-killer to inject its food with? If they say there is one, would you believe them?
How ’bout this explanation:
God, the Creator, knew that the Mamba needed to eat small animals after Adam disobeyed so the world wouldn’t be overrun. He gave the Mamba everything it needed to keep that population in check.
God also made the little critters the Mamba was going to eat. He knows when a sparrow gets eaten for lunch. He knows when the little mousies get eaten, too. So, He programmed the Mamba’s venom production to also make stuff that would make their lunch’s last moments less painful.
What is the price of two sparrows—one copper coin? But not a single sparrow can fall to the ground without your Father knowing it. And the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So don’t be afraid; you are more valuable to God than a whole flock of sparrows. Matthew 10:29-31 NLT
Websites to check out:
Answers in Genesis, News to Note Oct. 13, 2012: Mamba Magic
Venomous Reptiles.org: The Black Mamba (from a snake catcher’s perspective)