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Dwarf Caiman Fact Sheet

  • Latin Name

    Paleosuchus palpebrosus
  • Class

  • Order

  • Range

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

  • Status

    Dwarf caimans are considered a Species of Least Concern by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.

  • Habitat

    These reptiles prefer shallow streams or rivers with clear freshwater and fast-moving rapids. They are unable to compete with spectacled caimans and avoid them whenever possible. Dwarf caimans seem to prefer cooler water than other caimans, withstanding conditions as low as 42 degrees Fahrenheit.

  • Niche

    Although this species is mostly solitary, it's occasionally found in pairs. Dwarf caimans communicate with other members of their species through scent, sound, and posturing. As a nocturnal species, they bask in the sun during the day and hunt at night. Due to their predation of fish, such as piranhas, they are considered a keystone species and are important to maintaining a balanced ecosystem. Their bony scales protect them from most predators. Only jaguars and large boas, like green anacondas, typically hunt them.

  • Life History

    Dwarf caimans breed once a year, usually at the end of the dry season. Courtship begins with a display from the male, who holds his head and tail vertically out of the water and emits loud grunt-like sounds. After mating, males leave to mate with other females in the same season. Females build a large mound--made of mud, leaves, and small braches--to use as a nest. Once she lays her eggs and buries them in the mound, she will guard them throughout the 90-day incubation period. About 10 to 25 eggs are laid at a time, and incubation temperature determines the sex of the offspring. They become fully mature around age 10.


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