Dwarf Caiman

Scientific Name    
Paleosuchus palpebrosus  
 
Feeding Type
Carnivorous 
 
Range                       
Across South America in the Amazon, Orinoco and Sao Francisco River systems. Northern Panama and Paraguay river systems   
 
Habitat                      
Forest areas near large lakes and rivers
  
Diet in the Wild       
Fish, invertebrates and shrimp    
               
Diet at the Zoo         
Mice, Capelin (small fish)        
             
Description
The smallest crocodilians, caimans have bony plates over their eyelids. They are distinguished by a high, smooth skull and brown eyes, instead of yellow, which are common to most crocodilians. They measure 5 to 7½ feet in length.

Adaptation/Behavior
The skull sits very high and the snout makes an upturned curl. The structure of the skull suggests that they make use of burrows as shelter during the day. Because of its smaller size, caimans also have scales on the underside for protection.

Courtship/Breeding
May be found singly or in pairs for most of the year, although no set breeding season has been noted. Females are mound-nesters, using available vegetation and mud. As the vegetation rots, the heat incubates the clutch of about 10 to 25 eggs. Incubation period lasts around 90 days. Newly hatched young may not enter the water until the end of their first day. Until then, they are coated with a slow-drying, protective mucus layer. Although such a covering is present in the hatch lings of all crocodilians, it has been suggested that the drying of layer may help to reduce the growth of algae on the body of this species.

Conservation
Caimans are considered widespread and its population is stable. The value of its skin is not considered to be very high, given both its small size and the poor 'quality' of the belly skin. Double osteoderms are present in the ventral scales, making the skin tough and too costly to tan. Threats, therefore, come more from habitat destruction and pollution (for example, through gold mining activities).                                           
 
Interesting Facts
Palpebrosus means “bony eyelids”