Spectacled Caiman

By Marla Lise

Scientific Name: Caiman crocodilus

This little crocodilian is the most widespread of all the members of the Alligatoridae family, which includes alligators, crocodiles, and of course, caiman. Hailing from South and Central America, the Caiman is highly adaptable and able to live in a variety of habitats. If conditions are bad, the Spectacled Caiman can actually make itself a burrow and rest there until conditions improve.

The spectacled caimans are known for the ridges around their eyes that make it look like they’re wearing a pair of spectacles, which thus gives them their name. These studious-looking reptiles are a dull olive green color as adults; however, when they are juveniles they start off yellow with black spots and bands on their bodies.

Spectacled Caiman. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
These caimans can grow up to 2.5 meters (8 feet) in length. They have 75 long teeth to catch their prey, but swallow their food whole. Hunting at night, they usually feed on crustaceans, mollusks and fish. Although, they have been known to be cannibalistic, at times eating members of their own species.

Caimans have been hunted for their skins and for the illegal pet trade. Despite this, Caiman populations are still doing well and they are considered under least concern on the IUCN list of endangered species. Surprisingly the Spectacled Caimans are being blamed for the depletion of other species of crocodiles, through competing with them for food and resources.


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