As we discussed a few fact days ago, there’s 3 families of crocodilians, one of which is family alligatoridae where you’ll find alligators and caiman. So what are caiman? Ask anyone outside the croc community and the most likely answer will be they’re a small alligator. This isn’t entirely accurate. The Chinese alligator is a rather small species compared to some, and while a few of the 6 species of caiman rarely grow to a formidable size, there are a couple of species that can grow to a length that may cause serious trepidation if you stumbled across one in the wild unexpectedly.
A cousin to the alligator, caiman are found in central and South America. Although they’re in the same family, caimans can differ significantly amongst the individual species. For example, the Spectacled Caiman is usually a small species, but they do have the potential in rare scenarios to exceed 10 feet in length. Sexual maturity can be reached in about 4-5 years and although females stay close to the nest, they don’t do a marvelous job protecting unborn hatchlings and predation of eggs in some areas can be in excess of 80%! The flip side of this coin you have the Smooth Fronted Caiman. Rarely exceeding 5-6ft in length, males can take a full 20 years to reach sexual maturity whilst females can reproduce in about 10-11 years. Females protect their nest in the wild, but contrary to other crocodilians, they’re not the greatest parents and parental care is almost nonexistent within 1-2 weeks. The far end of the Caiman spectrum we have the Black Caiman who can be a rather large specimen. Certain individuals have been documented to hit 16 feet in length with jaws that look like they could crush a tank. Able to lay up to 60 eggs in one sitting, populations in some areas have dwindled from over hunting because of the value of their highly prized skin. That being said, populations in Brazil are estimated to be over 16 million!