Caiman facts - Habits and habitats
Caimans are crocodilians that belong to the Caimaninae subfamily in the Alligatoridae family, which also includes alligators. Caimans can be found in South and Central America and will inhabit freshwater systems like rivers, streams, ponds and lakes.
The Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) can also be found in southern Florida as an invasive species. It established a breeding population after being released into the wild when they grew to big to be a suitable pet for their owners.
The Caimans look very much like Alligators, however they are generally smaller in size and weight. The smallest of the caiman species is the Cuvier’s dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus), it will grow to 1.5 m (5 ft).
The Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger) is the biggest of all caimans, they can grow to a maximum length of 6 m (20 ft), making it one of the largest animals found in South America.
The several Caiman species will lay between 14-60 eggs. The eggs are laid in a mound nest constructed by the female. The incubation period for the eggs of different species is different however on average it takes about 70 days. The female will guard the nest, after the hatching, the young by guarding her territory. Like other crocodilians the temperature in the nest will be determinant to the sex of the young caimans.
The smaller caiman species will eat invertebrates and fish, while the bigger ones can kill larger prey like birds, reptiles or big mammals like jaguars and capybaras. The bigger species like the Black Caiman are considered dangerous to humans.
As well as most of the crocodilians, several of the caiman species are also listed as endangered. The main threats to the caiman species are the habitat destruction and illegal hunting for the skin trade and meat, and also the collection of eggs and juveniles for the exotic pet market, resulting in a declining population in the wild. There are several conservation programs in place trying to save several of the most endangered caiman species.
Caiman facts - Species
Facts about crocodiles for kids
Where crocodiles live
Where do alligators live
Alligator facts for kids
Did you know?
The Everglades is the only place on earth where we can find alligators and crocodiles.