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Alligators and Caimans: Alligatoridae

Common Caiman (caiman Crocodilus): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Also known as the spectacled caiman, the common caiman has a bony ridge and slightly lighter color around each eye. Its body is greenish to brownish gray, sometimes with noticeable dark bands on its tail and patches on its back. Adults usually grow to 4 to 6 feet (1.2 to 1.8 meters) long, but some can reach up to 10 feet (3 meters) from the tip of the snout to the end of the tail.

Geographic range: The common caiman lives from southern Mexico to northern Argentina, on the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, and in southern Florida. Cuba and Puerto Rico also have introduced populations.

Habitat: It is found in calm freshwater lakes, rivers, and swamps, as well as man-made roadside ditches.

Diet: From youngsters to adults, common caimans tend to eat animals they find in the water. Although the youngest ones will eat insects and other invertebrates they find on land, juveniles are fond of snails, and adults mainly eat different types of fishes.

Common caimans live in groups quite peacefully for most of the year, but during the mating season, the males begin bellowing and set up territories. (©Kevin Schafer/Photo Researchers, Inc. Reproduced by permission.)

Behavior and reproduction: Common caimans live in groups quite peacefully for most of the year, but during the mating season, the males begin bellowing and set up territories. One male may mate with several females. The female lays 12 to 36 eggs in a leafy nest she makes on land. The male guards the nest until the babies hatch. The mother then carries them to the water. The family stays together for about a year.

Common caimans and people: People sometimes hunt this reptile for its meat and its skin.

Conservation status: This species is not considered endangered or threatened. ∎



Lamar, William. The World's Most Spectacular Reptiles and Amphibians. Tampa, FL: World Publications, 1997.

Cleaver, Andrew. Snakes and Reptiles: A Portrait of the Animal World. Wigston, Leicester: Magna Books, 1994.

Lockwood, C. C. The Alligator Book. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 2002.

Ross, C. A., ed. Crocodiles and Alligators. New York: Facts on File, Inc., 1989.

Rue, Leonard Lee. Alligators and Crocodiles. Wigston, Leicester: Magna Books, 1994.

Web sites:

"All About Alligators." Enchanted Learning. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/Alligator.shtml (accessed on September 21, 2004).

"Alligator." Everglades National Park. http://www.nps.gov/ever/eco/gator.htm (accessed on September 21, 2004).

"Alligator." World Almanac for Kids. http://www.worldalmanacforkids.com/explore/animals/alligator.html (accessed on September 21, 2004).

"Alligator mississippiensis (DAUDIN, 1801)." Florida Museum of Natural History. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/cnhc/csp_amis.htm (accessed on December 15, 2004).

"Alligators and Crocodiles." San Diego Zoo. http://www.sandiegozoo.org/animalbytes/t-crocodile.html (accessed on September 21, 2004).

"Crocodilian Species List." Florida Museum of Natural History. http://www.flmnh.ufl.edu/cnhc/csl.html (accessed on December 15, 2004).

"The Reptiles: Alligators and Crocodiles." Nature. http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/reptiles/ (accessed on December 15, 2004).

"Spectacled Caiman." Enchanted Learning. http://www.enchantedlearning.com/subjects/reptiles/caiman/Speccaiman.shtml (accessed on September 21, 2004).

"Wild Things: The Not-So-Friendly Caiman." Kidzworld. http://www.kidzworld.com/site/p483.htm (accessed on September 21, 2004).

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceDinosaurs, Snakes, and Other ReptilesAlligators and Caimans: Alligatoridae - Physical Characteristics, Diet, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, American Alligator (alligator Mississippiensis): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, HABITAT, CAIMANS ALLIGATORS AND PEOPLE