Black Caiman

Black Caiman
Melanosuchus niger

Quick Facts

Black Caiman

Found:  South America
Size:  16 to 20 feet
Weight:  Up to 800 pounds
Diet:  fish, vertebrates, rodents
Life Span:  50 to 80 years
Status:  Unknown

The black caiman is the largest caiman and also the largest predator in the Amazon basin.  What makes them unusual is that they don’t lose their “baby stripes.”  Most crocodilian hatchlings have markings that help them blend into their surroundings.  American alligator hatchlings have yellow stripes to help them hide in grasses along the shore. These stripes fade over time.  But the markings on black caimans do not fade.  Unfortunately, this relatively vibrant coloration has caused pressure for the species as their hide is highly prized in the skin trade.  They eat fish, (including piranha and catfish) and birds, turtles, and land-dwelling animals like  capybara and deer when they come to the waters edge to drink.  Larger caimans can take tapirs and anacondas. Their teeth are designed to grab but not rip, so they swallow their food whole after drowning it. 

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