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CAIMAN TALK

Caiman firstly are reptiles, and all reptiles share certain features such as scaly skin, cold blood, which means they can regulate their body temperature using the external environment rather than the internal metabolism en in most cases soft-shelled eggs. Secondly, caimans are crocodilians and crocodilians share certain feature as well, all crocodiles are semi-aquatic, they are very good swimmers, their bodies are log and slender and the tail very powerful to drive them forward, these animals are all very powerful predators, their principal weapon being the very strong jaws spending a lot of time cruising around with only the eyes and nostril above the water slowly so that, they can creep up on their prey. The crocodilians are a very old group of animals, they date back to the Mesozoic era 270 million years ago, which also the time of the dinosaur, the crocodilians of this time reached about 15 meters (50 feet) and some of them fed on smaller dinosaur, but 70 million years ago when all the dinosaur became extinct for some reason, the crocodilians were also affected in a large way, previously there were 11 families of crocodilians living in the world eight of them, disappeared and now a day only three families still exist. These three families are: 1. Gharials. - They are oddest looking crocodilians and one of the biggest crocodilians, male reaching from 16 to 20 feet (5-6 mts) and females 10 to 13 feet (3-4mts) and a life span of 40 to 60 years, they are found only in India, Nepal and Bangladesh and are probably the least known group generally, they live in the rivers where they feed on fish caught by closing their very long narrow snouts quickly to the side. 2. Crocodiles. - The crocodiles are the biggest family in terms of physical dimensions and normally considered to be the most dangerous to man, they are found across a large area of the world in Africa, across Asia, in the north of Australia, North and South America, the Nile crocodile and pacific salt water crocodiles are the biggest and most dangerous reaching up to 7 to 8 meters long and a life span of 50 to 75 years. 3. Alligators. They are found in the Americas, quite confusingly this group is made up of the true alligators found in North America and Central America and caimans are found in Central America and South America.

Alligators and caimans appear rather similar to each other but they can be told apart easily if we know what characteristics to look for, alligator has a broad rounded head while the head of a caiman is slightly more pointed and caimans generally have much shorter tails than alligators. And now, what most people want to know is the difference between crocodiles and alligators and actually the main difference between crocodiles and alligators is that the alligators are more docile and less aggressive than crocodiles, but there are several ways to tell the two apart. One of this ways is looking at the shape of jaw: Alligators tend to have wider, U shape, rounded snouts while a crocodiles tend to have longer more pointed V shape snout. The Teeth: The fourth bottom tooth of the alligator fits into a slot in its upper jaw while with a crocodile it sticks out and it can be seen from the outside when the mouth is shut looking like it is smiling. The Habitats: Crocodiles also have special glands in their tongues that can get rid of excess salt, so they tend to live in salt water habitats, alligators have these glands too, but they dont work as well as the crocodiles so, alligators prefer to live in fresh water habitats. There are four species of caimans found in lakes, streams and rivers around here. These are: Dwarf caiman which reach 1.5 meters long. The smooth fronted caiman which reach 2 metres, These two caimans are small compared with the other caimans and are found in smaller streams, tributaries, thus we will not see them out on the Rio Tambopata. We are more likely to see the spectacled caiman and the black caiman. So we are going to talk more about these two bigger caimans. The spectacled caiman is a small to medium sized crocodilian males generally reach 2.5 meters long (7 feet) 100 to 150 kg. Females are smaller reaching a maximum size of 1.5 meters long. Its common name derives from a bony ridge which is present between the front of the eyes

appearing to join the eyes like a pair of spectacles, juveniles caimans are yellow in color with black spots and bands and the body and tail, as they mature they lose this yellow color and markings become less distinct and adults are dull olive-green, they are found in river banks and swamps. Of the eight living caiman species, the spectacled caimans are the most widespread being distributed in the south and central America, parts of the Caribbean and has even been introduced into the united states (South Florida) And the estimated wild populations is over 1.000.000 of caimans. The black caiman is the biggest species in the family alligatoridae reaching up to 20 feet (6 meters) and 150-180 kg. They have black scaly skin and a bony ridge extending from over the eyes down to the snout, they also have gray or brown banding on the lower jaw, a narrow snout and flat forehead, they are found in oxbow lakes, flooded forest as well as large river banks but, preferring quiet black water. The biggest caimans in the area are found predominantly in the lakes, swamps rather than in the rivers, this is because lakes are much easier environment in which to live than rivers as there are not currents to battle against so, the biggest caiman probably push out the smaller ones from the lakes and the swamps into the rivers About the breeding biology: T he black caiman become sexually mature at 4 years approximately and the spectacled caiman at 4-7 years old, they mate in shallow water, black caiman nest in October through January and spectacled caiman in august through November, thats why, if you hear a lot of splashing around in the water, it may well be a caiman mating, after mating the male disappears and this is the last he has to do with things, He leaves the females to raise the hatchlings alone, then, the female will build the nest from 10 to 20 meters away form the river which is 1.5 mt, wide and 0.80 cm high, and often against a tree, then. The Black caiman will lay 30 to 60 eggs and spectacled caiman 14 to 40 eggs which are around the sized like a ping- pong ball then, they will cover the nest with leaves and sticks, because the decomposition if this vegetation helps to maintain the temperature of the nest, the incubation period is from 5 to 6 weeks for black caiman and from 9 to 11 weeks for spectacled caiman, The interesting thing about the reproduction of caimans and in fact of all crocodilians is that the sex of the hatchlings is not determined at the point of conception as it is in most other animal. The important factor here is the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. If the temperature is

greater than 23 degrees the eggs will turn out to be males, if it is under 23 degrees they will be females. So, the eggs on the top of the nest will be males because they will be kept warm as they are close to the sun, and the eggs on the females because they will be kept cooler as they are insulated from the sun. But, scientists have found, the mother caimans actually regulate the sex ratio. In areas with a lot of female caimans. They will dig shallower nests, thus