Black Caiman

The Life of Animals | Black Caiman | The black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) is a crocodilian. The black caiman has a bony ridge over brown eyes, and black, scaly skin. The skin coloration helps with camouflage during its nocturnal hunts, but may also help absorb heat (See thermoregulation). Small black caiman can be distinguished from large spectacled caiman by their proportionately larger head and shorter tail, as well as by the color of the jaw, which is light colored in the spectacled caiman and dark with three black spots in the black caiman.

The black caiman is one of the largest reptiles. It is the largest predator in the Amazon basin and possibly the largest member of the family Alligatoridae. Most adult black caimans are 3 to 4.26 metres (9.8–14 ft) in lengths, with old males rarely growing larger than 5 metres (16 ft). The black caiman broadly overlaps in size with the American alligator, although it is on average larger at maturity. Several unconfirmed sources report that the black caiman can grow to 6 metres (20 ft) or more  It is, however, the third largest crocodilian in South America behind the American Crocodile and Orinoco Crocodile.

Immature specimens eat crustaceans and insects but quickly graduate to eating fish, including piranhas, catfish, and perch, which remain the primary food source for all black caiman. Larger specimens can take tapirs, anacondas, deer and capybara. Jaguars are a known predator of all other caiman species as well as juvenile black caimans, but mature black caimans likely have no natural predators, as is true of other similarly-sized crocodilian species (given the size, weight and immense biting strength). At the end of the dry season, females build a nest of soil and vegetation, which is about 1.5 meters (5 ft) across and 0.75 meters wide (2.5 ft). The mother will assist chirping, unhatched young to break out of the leathery eggs, by delicately breaking the eggs between her teeth. The female black caiman only breeds once every 2 to 3 years. The black caiman is mentioned in Matthew Reilly's best selling book Temple, where they are constantly eating people that fall in the water.  

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