How Would You Describe the Caiman?
Caiman is a reptile that is closely related to alligators and crocodiles. There are six species of caiman that can be found in Central and South America: in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, French Guyana. Caimans like wetlands such as rainforests or the Amazon River basin. Caimans live in swamps, flooded savannas, mangroves, slowly moving rivers and lakes.
Caimans can reach 5 to 20 feet in length and weigh from 220 to 1100 pounds, depending on the species. Males and female look alike. Caiman’s body is covered with hard scales that act like an armor. It can be olive green, grey, brown or black in color. Skin is sometimes covered with pale stripes and spots which provide camouflage.
The largest is the black caiman, which grows to a length of 5m (16ft). Caimans belong to the same group because of a bony ridge that is above their eyes. Caimans are well adapted to the life in water. They can swim at speed of 30 miles per hour. Long and flattened tail is used both for swimming and for protection against predators. Just like other reptiles, caimans spend most of the day basking in the sun.
Caiman has excellent sense of hearing and eyesight. Caiman has strong molar teeth which are designed for crushing of the food. Caiman is carnivore (meat-eater). Its diet usually consists of fish, crustaceans, small reptiles and birds. Young caimans eat insects.
Caimans are solitary creatures that gather only during the mating season. Caimans mate at the end of dry season when food is abundant (large number of fish end up trapped in shallow pools of water). Easy meals ensure energy required for development of eggs. Female builds a mound in the ground (usually 5 feet wide) and lays up to 65 eggs. She guards the nest during the period of 6 weeks and waits for eggs to hatch.
Temperature of the nest determines the gender of the baby. Lower temperature is associated with development of females, while higher temperature ensures development of males. Young caimans will follow their mother (after hatching) to the nearest water where she will teach them how to swim.
They are nocturnal which means they are awake during the night. They hunt fish, birds, turtles, reptiles, and mammals. They have about 75 long and sharp teeth. They don’t tear their prey up they swallow it whole. Caimans have long lifespan. They can survive 30 to 40 years in the wild and up to 60 years in captivity.
Almost all caiman species are endangered due to habitat loss and poaching. People hunt caimans because of their beautiful skin and meat. Some people keep caimans as pets. Caimans have few natural predators because of their size and aggressive temper. Besides humans, jaguars are greatest enemies of caimans.
Caimans are important in their native habitats because they keep number of animals (their prey) under control. Reduced number of caimans in the wild resulted in increased number of capybaras (which destroy crops) and piranhas (which attack cattle).