Friday, July 1, 2011

Black Caiman

Melanosuchus niger
The Black Caiman, named for its dark coloration, is the largest of all the Alligator species. Individuals as large as 19ft (6m) have been measured! These massive reptiles can be found stalking freshwater areas of South America.

Black Caimans have a wonderful senses of hearing and sight, which they use to track down and capture prey. They hunt primarily at night, and fish make up a large portion of their diet, but adults can also tackle much larger prey, including capybara, deer, and even livestock. There are some reports of human attacks as well.

Female Black Caimans are very attentive incubators. They build large nests during the dry season, and lay around 40 eggs within them. They eggs are then buried in the nest and guarded over for a period of 2-3 months. When it is time for the young Caimans to hatch, the mother digs them out. Because nests are often built close to each other, numerous young hatchlings can congregate in the same place for protection.

Illegal hunting during the mid 20th century has reduced the Black Caiman populations throughout their range. It is estimated that the population was reduced by 99% over the course of the century! The species is in recovery, but illegal hunting and habitat loss continue to pose a threat.

IUCN Status :  Lower Risk, Conservation Dependent
Location : Amazon Basin
Size : Length up to 14ft (4.25m)
Classification : Phylum : Chordata -- Class : Reptilia -- Order : Crocodilia
Family : Alligatoridae -- Genus : Melanosuchus -- Species : M. niger

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