Black Caiman Fact File


The black caiman is the largest member of the alligator family. Males are larger than females. On average this species grows to lengths of between 4 and 6m (13-20ft). They can reach weights of up to 300kg (660lbs).

Adult caimans retain the bright markings on their skin in to adulthood. This pattern of yellowish strips and spots cover the rest of the dark colored skin from which their name is derived.

Their eyes and nostrils sit on top of the head allowing them to sit out the water so they can see and breathe while their body remains hidden.

The patterning of their skin made the skin highly prized and increased hunting pressure on them.


Black caimans are carnivores. Fish comprise the main part of their diet but mammals, amphibians, insects and crustaceans may also be eaten.

They are capable of taking down large items such as capybara, buffalo or large snakes. In areas where they live alongside humans they will also feed on domestic livestock.

black caiman

Scientific Name

Melanosuchus niger

Conservation Status

Least Concern


300kg (660lbs)


4-6m (13-20ft)


13 years



-- AD --


South America is the native home of the black caiman. Here they can be found in the following countries - Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana and Peru. The origin of the population in Venezuela and its current status is uncertain.


Slow-moving rivers, streams and lakes within savanna and wetlands are the native home of the black caiman.

black caiman


Nesting takes place during the dry season from September through December.

The nest is a mound and the female uses her hind legs to dig the egg chamber. Females deposit between 30 and 65 eggs in to the nest.

Most females will defend their eggs and may provide some care for the hatchlings once they emerge from their eggs. Incubation lasts between two and three months with the variance being attributed to nest temperature.

The eggs face a number of threats including predation and flooding of the nest.

Groups of hatchlings will form and are known as pods. These may be siblings or from multiple nests.


Most of their day is spent in the water. At night they may come ashore. Nesting and basking occur on the shoreline.

black caiman

Predators and Threats

Adults are generally considered the apex predator in their environment but may be consumed by jaguars and large snakes such as the anaconda.

This species was driven to extinction across much of its range as they are prized for their skin. They retain their bright coloration in to adulthood. It is thought that over 90% of the population may have been hunted over the past 100 years.

Quick facts

The black caiman is the largest member of the alligator family.

black caiman

Photo Credits

Top and Middle Two

By Rigelus - Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,

Middle One

By Bernard DUPONT from FRANCE - Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger) (Captive specimen), CC BY-SA 2.0,


By [2] - [1], CC BY 2.0,


Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK

Ross, J.P. 2000. Melanosuchus niger. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2000: e.T13053A3407604. Downloaded on 28 February 2021. 2021. Caimans Facts and Information | SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 March 2021].

Crocodiles of the World. 2021. Black Caiman. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 March 2021].

Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Melanosuchus niger" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed February 28, 2021 at

Amazon Aid Foundation. 2021. Caiman - Amazon Aid Foundation. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 1 March 2021].

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