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Sunday Crocodilian - Caiman crocodilus Edition

Back to South America for this one, where it is no doubt warmer than it is here.

The Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) gets its name from the way the bony ridge just in front of its eyes seems to join them together like a pair of spectacles. It can be found in Central and South America, and is the most common of all crocodilians because of its resilience and ability to tolerate a variety of habitats, including both saltwater and fresh water.


Adult male Spectacled Caimans average about 6.6 feet (2 meters), and rarely reach lengths as long as the larger recorded specimens, which are about 8.2 feet (2.5 meters). Females are smaller, growing up to 4.6 feet (1.4 meters), and the body mass of adults of both sexes can range from 15 to 88 pounds (7 to 40 kg). The color of their hides can change depending on the season, because the black pigment in their scales will expand in colder weather. In general, they are olive green in color.

The diet of the Spectacled Caiman depends on the availability of prey within its range, but in general consists of turtles, fish, small-to-medium-sized mammals, and a variety of invertebrates. Most of their feeding occurs during the wet season since food becomes scarcer during the dry season. This scarcity will sometimes lead larger Spectacled Caimans to cannibalize smaller ones. In extremely lean conditions, they will burrow themselves in mud and become dormant, waiting it out.


Mating occurs during the dry season and nesting during the wet season, which is unusual for crocodilians. Gravid females will construct nests out of available materials (usually mud and vegetation). In it, they will lay a clutch of up to 40 eggs, the size of which depends on how large the female is. After an incubation period of about 90 days, the mother will dig out her young and sometimes assist in hatching. Eggs and hatchlings are often lost to flooding or predators, but females are particularly protective of all young, not just their own. If it is necessary to move to a different body of water, the female in charge of the young will patiently lead all of them to the new place, using calls to guide them and ensuring that none are left behind.


Spectacled Caimans are listed as a species of least concern by the IUCN, and this is partly due to the fact that the bony plates in the hides of Spectacled Caimans makes them an unattractive target for the leather industry. But when other crocodilians were hunted so heavily that they became scarce, Spectacled Caiman hides made up the difference. As a whole, their population is healthy, although they are threatened by poachers, pollution and loss of habitat.


Source for all images used in this post.

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