Caiman crocodilus crocodilus
DESCRIPTION A medium-size caiman. Adult length 6-1/2-8-1/2 feet ((2.0-2.6 m).
The eye sockets are surrounded by bony ridges connected by a horizontal ridge, giving the impression of eyeglasses or spectacles. The iris is greenish. Adults are grayish-green above, paler below, with dark bands on the tail. Juveniles are yellowish-brown with black bands.
BEHAVIOR & HABITAT Highly adaptable and tolerant of human activity. Able to live almost anywhere there is water, from swamps, lakes and rivers to cattle ponds, reservoirs and ditches. Prefers slow-moving waters to swift rivers, and sun to shade. Tolerant of salt water. Maintains its body temperatures of 30-33°C daytime, and 26-30°C at night by sunning, lying in shade, or submerging in water or mud as necessary. Babies feed on insects at first, then on crabs, snails and small fish. Adults eat whatever they can kill, mainly fish, but ranging up to small deer and pigs. They also eat carrion. It is believed that caiman excrement provides an important nutrient for invertebrates in many aquatic ecosystems, thereby benefiting fish populations.
Breeds near end of dry season, nests mid-August to early November. The female builds a mound nest of earth mixed with leaves and twigs, and lays 15-40 eggs, which she defends actively. Incubation takes 70-90 days. The male is said to open the nest and crack the eggs with his jaws, while the female waits in the water for the hatchlings.
DISTRIBUTION East of the Andes in parts of Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela; on the islands of Trinidad and Tobagao; in Guyana, Surinam and French Guiana; and in the Amazon basin of Brazil, except for a few southern tributaries.
STATUS Stable in most of its range, but depleted in Colombia and Peru.