Mongoose vs. mamba: no contest!

Here we have a fight to the death between a slender mongoose (Galerella sanguinea) and the deadly black mamba (Dendroaspis polylepis), one of the most venomous snakes in the world. For some reason these YouTube battles of mongoose vs. snake always end with the snake losing, but of course there’s been strong natural selection for quicker reflexes in the mongoose.

The mongoose, after pretending not to notice the snake, and then feinting at it repeatedly, gives the fatal bite at about 1:42.  They’re brave little buggers!

If you want to see more on this snake, here’s a video. Note that it can lift half of its body off the ground and travel at 5 meters per second, faster than most humans can run. My colleague Daniel Lachaise was once chased into a vehicle by an aggressive black mamba in Africa. He thought he was safe, but then the damn thing raised up off the ground and tried to crawl in through a crack in the driver’s-side window. Daniel survived.

32 Comments

  1. Randall Schenck
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 3:38 pm | Permalink

    Yes, part of a show they put on in Okinawa is to show a Mongoose killing a king cobra snake. However, the Mongoose is smart and does not go after a habu. This snake can strike 360 degrees and very fast.

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 17, 2019 at 5:10 pm | Permalink

      I’m afraid I would regard that as equivalent to bear-baiting, cock-fighting or any other primitive mediaeval spectacle. We know animals kill each other but it shouldn’t be staged for entertainment.

      cr

      • rickflick
        Posted March 17, 2019 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        I agree. The film above however looked like a random encounter during a safari. I have no problem with that.

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted March 17, 2019 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

          Agreed.

          cr

  2. Mike Anderson
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

    Amazing amount of snake fighting knowledge on display – maintaining the right distance, bait a few strikes from the snake, attack the area right behind the head, etc.

  3. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 3:43 pm | Permalink

    Mongoose vs. Mamba? I thought the locus classicus of this genre was mongoose v. cobra. Mongoose vs. mamba seems like Joe Frazier skipping a rematch against Ali to fight George Foreman.

    • ThyroidPlanet
      Posted March 17, 2019 at 4:20 pm | Permalink

      Riki Tiki Tavi – a favorite Kipling story – a little rough by today’s standards though

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 17, 2019 at 10:57 pm | Permalink

      Mambas are closely related to cobras.
      I’ve regularly, well on several occasions, met with cobras, but I’d be much more wary of a black mamba: they are faster, more aggressive, more toxic, larger and hence strike higher, in chest or face, the more dangerous areas.
      I doubt whether Foreman was a more formidable boxer than Ali

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 3:55 pm | Permalink

    Call me slavishly tribal if you wanna, but in the same way I always root for the American League against the National League in the World Series, I always root for the mammal against the reptile. 🙂

    • infiniteimprobabilit
      Posted March 17, 2019 at 5:15 pm | Permalink

      I usually root for the one that’s expected to lose i.e. the snake. An instinctive reaction against aggression, I think.

      The exception is when one of the animals is a big cat – then I’m usually on the side of the cat. Lions are much more interesting than assorted grazing animals.

      cr

    • Posted March 18, 2019 at 3:00 am | Permalink

      …mammal doesn’t fair very well this time https://youtu.be/QsaG8rJGlyQ

  5. Diana MacPherson
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 5:01 pm | Permalink

    My dad had a hamster, when he was a kid, that chewed a snakes in half. Hamsters look cute but they are vicious. So too the weasels.

    • darrelle
      Posted March 18, 2019 at 7:08 am | Permalink

      I once saw a documentary about snake venom that had a small segment in honor of a Guinea pig. One day at snake feeding time at a research facility this particular Guinea pig was dropped into the enclosure of some sort of large venomous snake, a cobra if I recall correctly. The snake slowly cornered the poor, quivering, Guinea pig and then suddenly the Guinea pig leaped straight up in the air. It did something like a flip with a half twist and landed on top of the snake just behind its head and then went completely postal right at the back of the snake’s head. Dead snake.

      Next feeding time they tried feeding the same Guinea pig to another large venomous snake. Oops. Another dead snake. At that point they were so impressed with the Guinea pig they retired him and he lived happily ever after in his own well appointed enclosure.

      • Diana MacPherson
        Posted March 18, 2019 at 9:19 am | Permalink

        GPs are usually really docile too! I had a GP the was dominant & would bite you so I bet that one would be tougher as well.

        • darrelle
          Posted March 18, 2019 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

          My brother had a Guinea pig when we were kids. It never bit on purpose but it did sometimes accidentally bite when eating out of your hand. Big front teeth. They could do some damage!

          • Diana MacPherson
            Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

            Yes, one was startled by my dog and tried to bite my dog while I was holder her (the GP). The GP missed the dog (which was good as the dog my have retaliated) & got me. It drew blood!

  6. Posted March 17, 2019 at 5:51 pm | Permalink

    I do feel sorry for the snake. It cannot have the reflexes or senses or planning to match the mongoose. And the mongoose has been learning how to do this, while the snake can not learn its part.

  7. Posted March 17, 2019 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    I’m sure it can’t be true the snake died at 1:42. It’s a well known fact that snakes never die until sundown.

  8. Sarah
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    The mongoose seems to eat the snake’s head, but if that is where the deadly venom is, how can it do that?

    • Michael Fisher
      Posted March 18, 2019 at 12:47 am | Permalink

      Here’s some stuff I ggot from various sites – accuracy not guaranteed of course!

      TACTICS VERSUS SNAKE

      The mongoose always aims for the snake skull [rather than the ‘neck’ behind the skull], trying to crush it – obviously it attacks from the side or the back. We didn’t see the skull being eaten.

      From my reading there’s 33 species of mongoose including the meerkats & they’ll all attack a snake. Some mongoose, such as the meerkat are social & then the dead snake is brought back to the den to share. Everything is eaten including the venom sacs.

      MONGOOSE DEFENCES

      Speed, agility, thick fur and… mongooses have receptors for acetylcholine that, like the receptors in snakes, are shaped so that it is impossible for snake neurotoxin venom to attach to them. Mongooses are one of four known mammalian taxa with mutations in the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that protect against snake venom. Pigs, honey badgers, hedgehogs & mongooses all have modifications to the receptor pocket that prevents the snake venom α-neurotoxin from binding.

      These represent four separate, independent mutations. In the mongoose, this change is effected uniquely, by glycosylation. Researchers are investigating whether similar mechanisms protect the mongoose from hemotoxic snake venoms. SOURCE

      • rickflick
        Posted March 18, 2019 at 12:53 am | Permalink

        Very interesting that the mongoose has receptor modifications to protect against snake venom. If so, one of the goals of genetic manipulation of humans could be to add such a defense to all humans in danger of a snake bite. Wouldn’t hurt.
        Thanks for the research.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:14 am | Permalink

          Yes. Mongoose protection is against the neurotoxin type venoms [which is the black mamba for example], but no use against poison type venoms.

          I read that these little chaps can get seriously ill versus venom & there’s A 20% mortality once ill. But no specifics were given as to mongoose species or type of snake. My guess would be that a smart snake would evolve a varying [over aeons] venom cocktail & mongooses would be in an arms race with chemical defences varying with each species & locale.

        • Michael Fisher
          Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:20 am | Permalink

          Just noticed it’s the nicotinic acetylcholine receptor that’s involved. Presumably mongoose gain no buzz from smoking – clean living types.

          • Michael Fisher
            Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:22 am | Permalink

            Shame really – their a natural for Lucky Strikes as a brand.

            • Michael Fisher
              Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:22 am | Permalink

              their they’re

            • rickflick
              Posted March 18, 2019 at 8:54 am | Permalink

              If things don’t work out for you here, there’s a career waiting for you in advertising.

  9. Posted March 17, 2019 at 9:44 pm | Permalink

    Black Mambas represent the Dark Triad of scaled reptiles. Their Machiavellianism is just as bad as their narcissism.

  10. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted March 17, 2019 at 9:47 pm | Permalink

    “For some reason these YouTube battles of mongoose vs. snake always end with the snake losing, but of course there’s been strong natural selection for quicker reflexes in the mongoose.”

    Or strong selection for winning mongooses among Youtube posters?

    cr

    • Nicolaas Stempels
      Posted March 17, 2019 at 11:05 pm | Permalink

      I’ve recently seen a clip of a roadrunner vs diamondback rattlesnake, I fully expected the roadrunner to win, but it got bitten and came off second best. Its last fight with a rattlesnake.

      • Posted March 18, 2019 at 1:48 pm | Permalink

        They win 100% only against coyotes.

        • Nicolaas Stempels
          Posted March 18, 2019 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

          Against WilyE coyotes that is… 😁


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