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The genus was first described by the German ornithologist and herpetologist Hermann Schlegel in 1848.

It apparently refers to the scale count of this species, which is higher than some other species in the genus.

Specimens of 4.3 to 4.5 meters (14.1 to 14.8 ft) have been reported.

Although most mamba species are tree-dwelling snakes, the black mamba is not generally arboreal, preferring lairs in terrestrial habitats in a range of terrains.

It is capable of striking at considerable range and may occasionally deliver a series of bites in rapid succession.