So endeth the Sunday Crocodilian series! I've learned a lot about these large reptiles in general, and the unique characteristics of the species are just icing on the education cake.
The Yacare Caiman (Caiman yacare) can be found in South America, and make up what is one of the largest single population of crocodilians in the world in the Brazilian pantanal. The pantanal is the biggest tropical wetlands in the world, most of which is in the Brazilian state of Mato Grosso do Sul, but extends into Paraguay and Bolivia as well. The pantanal is inhabited by about 10 million Yacare Caimans. Regional common names of the Yacare Caiman include lagarto, yacare negro, jacare-do-pantanal and yacare tinga.
Adult Yacare Caiman fall within the medium-size spectrum of crocodilians, with adult males growing to 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) in body length and weighing 128 pounds (58 kg). Rumors of larger 13-foot (4 meter) males living in the pantanal are unverified. Adult females are a little smaller, reaching lengths of 4.6 feet (1.4 meters) and weights of 51 pounds (23 kg).
The diet of Yacare Caimans primarily consists of fish, including the piranha. They are so known for their propensity to eat piranha that they are sometimes called the Piranha Caiman. Adults have been known to feed on water birds and land mammals such as capybara. Due to their size, they are themselves preyed upon by large predators such as jaguars and anacondas.
Breeding season of Yacare Caimains typically occurs in the wet season, between December and February. Gravid females will build nest mounds out of mud and vegetation. They will lay clutches of 22 to 35 eggs, and will normally guard the nests against other predators. However, it has been observed that the presence of human hunters will deter the females from staying close to the nests, which has a negative impact on successful hatching.
The natural wariness and ability to adapt to different habitats seems to be the reason that the populations of Yacare Caimans recovered relatively quickly despite being heavily hunted like other crocodilian species. IUCN-affiliated studies continue to be conducted in order to provide recommendations to the countries within the range of the Yacare Caiman, so that sensible limits on hunting and ranching of these animals can be based on data.
Source for all images used in this post.