The spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodiliusgets its name from the bony ridge that lies between its eyes that gives it the appearance of wearing a pair of glasses. The spectacled caiman belongs to the family Alligatoridae along with many other species of crocodile and alligator. Unlike the other species in its family, the caiman seems to have benefited from the removal and displacement of the larger crocodilian species. The spectacled caiman is considered Least Concern by the IUCN and enjoys a range that stretches from southern Mexico all the way to Brazil (as pictured below). They were introduced in Puerto Rico, Cuba, and the United States. The spectacled caiman is considered to be highly adaptable to the rivers and lowland wetlands that it inhabits. These attributes have led to it being one of the most widespread species within its taxonomic family.

The yellow and black spots that distinguish juveniles from adults is a well-known feature of this species and can be observed in the photos below. This species can grow to a mere 8ft compared to its larger cousin, the black Caiman that can grow up to 19 feet in length. The males tend to be larger than the females. Adult spectacled caimans are a dull olive green and the yellow and black spots that juveniles have fade as they age. This species of crocodile endures the extremes of its ecosystem using a form of hibernation called estivation.  Estivation is the ability to hibernate through the dry and low prey summer season in its habitat. When its environment becomes too harsh the spectacled caiman can burrow in the mud and protect itself from overheating.

The caiman is considered a keystone species in its environment because it enjoys the status of a top predator, and its removal can lead to harsh consequences lower in the food chain. As juveniles, spectacled caimans consume aquatic insects, small fish, crustaceans, and mollusks. As adults, they eat just about anything they can catch, including mammals, birds, fish, and other reptiles. They have a total number of 72 to 78 teeth. Males and females become sexually mature around 4-7 years of age but it has been shown that sexual maturity can be based on size and size can be based on competition. In areas of high competition, it may take a particular individual more or less than 4-7 years to completely mature.

Some of the main threats for this species are being hunted for their skin and being killed solely because they frighten local populations. Although they are not currently threatened, their conservation as a keystone species is important because they keep many of their prey species in check in delicate river and lowland areas. In the areas that they have been introduced, specifically Cuba, they have put native populations of other species of crocodile at risk because they can outcompete local species. Also, since the 1950’s when hunting of the several larger species of crocodiles was occurring, the caiman has proliferated because of a lack of competition from larger species with healthier populations. The caiman is a species that in some areas of its range needs to be controlled and maintained in ecosystems where it occurs naturally.

Credit : Stedwards. education

Picture Credit : Google 

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *