Dwarf caiman

Latin Name
Paleosuchus palpebrosus




The dwarf caiman is the smallest member of the alligator family. Males can reach up to 5 feet in length and weigh 15 pounds; females are slightly smaller, on average. The species has a brownish body with a darker back.



This reptilian species is found in northern and central South America, from Venezuela to Brazil.


This species is not threatened at present.


The dwarf caiman favors freshwater rivers and streams.


The dwarf caiman feeds on prey it finds in the waters of its home. Fish, tadpoles, snails, insects and small mammals are all on the menu. The predators often have small stones in the stomach, which scientists believe help to break down prey.

Life History

During the dry season males establish territories and perform mating displays to attract females. To incubate eggs, both genders build a nest from mud, leaves and organic material. The female lays 10-25 eggs, which she guards for 90 days of incubation. After the young hatch, their vocalizations prompt the female to open the nest, and the new arrivals soon make their way to the water.

Special Adaptations

The sex of dwarf caiman hatchlings is determined by the incubation temperature of the eggs.

ARKive Media

ARKive image - Young dwarf caiman concealed under vegetationARKive video - Dwarf caiman hunting at nightARKive image - Juvenile dwarf caiman

ARKive is creating the ultimate multimedia guide to the world's endangered species.
Visit ARKive for thousands more films, photos and fact-files!

Lincoln Park Zoo Exhibit