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                Spectacled Caiman

                Spectacled Caiman

                Common caiman, Tinga, Baba, Babilla, Babiche, Cachirré, Caiman Blanco, Caiman de Brasil, Cascarudo, Jacaretinga, Lagarto, Lagarto Blanco, Yacaré Blanco

                Kingdom
                Phylum
                Subphylum
                Class
                Order
                Family
                Subfamily
                Genus
                SPECIES
                Caiman crocodilus
                Population size
                over 1 Mln
                Life Span
                20-40 yrs
                TOP SPEED
                48 km/h
                WEIGHT
                7-40 kg
                LENGTH
                1-2 m

                A large aquatic reptile, the caiman adult is a dull olive to almost black with yellow or black crossbands. Their snouts are long and their fourth mandibular tooth cannot be seen when their jaw is closed. Young are yellowish with darker spots and band. Spectacled caiman are distinguished by a bony infra-orbital bridge between their eyes. Subspecies vary in their color and the size of their head.

                Distribution

                The Spectacled caiman can be found in Columbia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad, Tobago, and Venezuela. They have been introduced into Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the US. It is very adaptable thrives in many environments including rivers and lowland wetlands, favoring areas with still waters. It will hibernate during summer by burrowing into the mud if its environment becomes too harsh and food is not readily available.

                Spectacled Caiman habitat map

                Climate zones

                Habits and Lifestyle

                Spectacled caimans live together in loose-knit groups but prefer to be solitary except in the mating season. They are nocturnal and usually hunt at night, being immobile most of the day and staying submerged. In the morning and early afternoon, they will bask on the shore. They remain in the same territory.

                Diet and Nutrition

                Spectacled caimans are carnivorous and their prey changes along with their increase in size. They will eat insects, snails, crabs, shrimps, fish, lizards, snakes, turtles, mammals, and birds. Cannibalism can occur, especially during drought conditions, with many caimans of varying sizes together in small areas.

                Mating Habits

                MATING BEHAVIOR
                REPRODUCTION SEASON
                May-August
                INCUBATION PERIOD
                65-104 days
                INDEPENDENT AGE
                1.5 years
                FEMALE NAME
                cow
                MALE NAME
                bull
                BABY NAME
                hatchling
                BABY CARRYING
                10-33 eggs

                Spectacled caimans are polygamous. Males attempt to mate with as many females as possible. They gain sexual maturity between 4 and 7 years old. They become aggressive and territorial during the mating season. Social rank is dependent on size: the larger, the more dominant. Mating occurs from May to August. Depending on the local climate, eggs are laid between July and November. 10 to 30 eggs are laid and about 65 to 104 days' incubation is needed. Juveniles stay with their parents for about 1.5 years, for protection from predators.

                Population

                Population threats

                Spectacled caimans are the species most intensely harvested by humans for their hide. Their skin is used for handbags, shoes, belts and wallets. But some are often killed because they look dangerous, which leads to many species being threatened or endangered. The Spectacled caiman itself is endangered in a number of countries, including El Salvador.

                Population number

                According to IUCN, Spectacled caimans are widely distributed throughout their range. The estimated wild population is probably over 1,000,000. The ICUN classifies them as "Least Concern".

                Ecological niche

                Spectacled caimans are a "keystone species," and control certain prey populations. The balance of entire ecosystems could be upset by their disappearance. They are predators of fish, as well as other aquatic and shoreline vertebrates. They are important members of aquatic communities and riparian shorelines.

                Fun Facts for Kids

                • The illuminated eyes of these caimans reflect red during the night. This makes them easy to see in the dark.
                • The common name is due to a bony ridge between the eyes which makes it look at though they are wearing a pair of spectacles.
                • After the babies hatch, mother caimans carry them in their mouths to safe waters.
                • Spectacled caimans in the upper jaw of their broad, blunt snout have 14 to 16 pairs of teeth and 18 to 20 pairs in the lower jaw.
                • The gender of the babies is dependent on incubation temperature: females from a temperature above 32 degrees Celsius and males from a temperature below 29 degrees Celsius.

                References

                1. Spectacled Caiman Wikipedia article - https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Spectacled_caiman
                2. Spectacled Caiman on The IUCN Red List site - http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/46584/0

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