Smoothfronted caiman

Paleosuchus trigonatus

SUBFAMILY

Caimaninae

TAXONOMY

Paleosuchus trigonatus Schneider, 1801, type locality not specified. No subspecies are recognized.

OTHER COMMON NAMES

English: Schneider's smooth-fronted caiman; French: Caiman e front lisse de Schneider; German: Keilkopfkaiman; Spanish: Jacaré coroa cachirre.

PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS

These caimans are called smooth-fronted because they lack the bony ridge typically seen between the eyes of other caimans. They are dark gray to black, with highly ridged dorsal scales and a tail that is barely as long as the body. Males reach 4.9-5.5 ft (1.5-1.7 m), and females attain a length of 3.9-4.6 ft (1.2-1.4 m).

DISTRIBUTION

The species is distributed throughout northern and north-central South America.

HABITAT

The smooth-fronted caiman usually is found in very shallow streams of heavily vegetated rainforests.

BEHAVIOR

Unusual for alligatorids, this species spends much of its time in hiding spots on land (such as under logs), rather than basking along the shoreline. It does, however, follow the typical alligator pattern of building nest mounds of vegetation, where it lays its eggs.

FEEDING ECOLOGY AND DIET

Hatchlings have an insectivorous diet, but juveniles and adults share a diet of reptiles and birds. Adults also commonly take mammals, including porcupines.

REPRODUCTIVE BIOLOGY

The timing of this species' breeding period coincides with the annual fluctuation of dry and wet seasons. Courtship, nest building, and egg laying take place toward the end of the dry season, and hatching ensues shortly after the rains begin to fall. A typical nest contains about a dozen eggs.

CONSERVATION STATUS Not listed by the IUCN.

SIGNIFICANCE TO HUMANS None known. ♦

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