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Sunday Crocodilian - Paleosuchus trigonatus Edition


Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus) is the second-smallest crocodilian, being slightly larger than Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman. It can only be found in South America, and is native to the Amazon and Orinoco river basins. It has lots of bony scutes on its skin, which doesn't make its hide very useful for leather. This means that it is not as over-hunted as many of the other crocodilian species already discussed, but it is collected and bred as a pet.


Adult Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caimans can reach lengths of up to 5.2 feet (1.6 meters), and weigh around 44 pounds (20 kg). Very large, mature males have been recorded 7.5 feet (2.3 meters) in length, weighing 79 pounds (36 kg), but it is unusual to reach that size. They have a "horned" appearance due to the bony scutes on their necks and backs, and their tails are so armored that they are less flexible than the tails of other crocodilians. The "trigonatus" part of their name refers to their triangular-shaped head.


During the day, Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caiman spends much of its time in concealment, which often involves being as far as 330 feet (100 meters) away from the water. Dry hiding places include hollow logs and dense vegetation, while the hiding places in the water include underwater burrows. They feed mostly on terrestrial animals like porcupines, snakes, pacas, birds, and lizards, with some molluscs and fish.


It takes a while for both male and female Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caimans to reach sexual maturity, about 20 years for males and 11 years for females. During the mating season, the female will construct a nest made of vegetation and mud on the banks of the water during the dry season. Sometimes she will use a pre-existing nest or the same nesting site. Sometimes the nests are built against termite mounds, which helps to maintain the incubating temperature. A clutch of 10 to 15 eggs is laid, and the female will stay near for nearly all of the 115-day incubation period. When the eggs start to hatch, she will help the hatchlings escape the nest and carry them to the water, where she will watch over them for the first few weeks of their lives.


Although the mortality rate of hatchlings and juveniles is high, once they reach a decent size Schneider's Smooth-fronted Caimans are generally likely to die of old age. They are hunted by jaguars but not much else, including humans. The greatest threats to the species are the destruction of its habitat and the pollution from gold mining operations.

Sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5) for the images used in this post.

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