The smooth-fronted caiman is also known as Schneider’s dwarf caiman. They reach an average length of 1.8m (5.9ft) long.
These animals are carnivores which feed on a range of fish, birds and reptiles. Unlike other crocodilians much of their feeding will take place on land.
Smooth-fronted caimans are found in South America where they live both in the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.
Read on to learn more about these reptiles below.
They are known as smooth fronted caimans as they lack the ridge between the eyes which is seen in other species of caiman in the genera Caiman and Melanosuchus.
Their head is colored dark brown which continues across the back with cream on the underside. Light and dark bands run around the tail. Their coloration will dull with age.
At the end of the body is a long tail. This features heavy ossification which is though to aid them in swimming in fast currents.
Their eye is colored brown.
An average smooth-fronted caiman will measure 1.8m (5.9ft) long though the largest on record reached 2.6m (8.5ft) long. An average weight for this species is 9-20kg (20-44lbs). Females tend to be smaller than males.
Smooth-fronted caimans are carnivores. They feed on a range of fish, birds, reptiles and mammals.
Much of their hunting will occur on land.
South America is the native home of the smooth-fronted caiman. Here they can be found in Bolivia; Brazil; Colombia; Ecuador; French Guiana; Guyana; Peru; Suriname and Venezuela.
They can be found in both the Amazon and Orinoco river basins.
Large parts of their range overlap with the Cuvier’s dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus).
They make their home in forests and wetlands. Individuals have been reported from artificial pastures.
Much of their time is spent in the water with smooth-fronted caimans living in freshwater rivers. Most of them live in shallow streams. They show a preference for cooler water than other species of crocodilian.
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During the breeding season a male will work hard to defend his territory and chases off any potential predators.
A female will deposit her eggs near or on top of a termite mound at the end of the dry season. These termite mounds help to maintain a stable temperature so they will incubate. The nest is a mound of decaying vegetation.
These eggs are incubated for over 100 days. The longest incubation undertaken by any crocodilian. 12 to 19 eggs have been recorded in a nest.
At hatching the young have a golden patch on their head.
The gender of the hatchlings is determined by the temperature at which they are incubated.
Females achieve sexual maturity at 11 years old with males not reaching this till much later at 20 years old.
It is common for females to only breed every second year.
It is considered rare for the smooth-fronted caiman to bask in the sun.
These animals are solitary outside of the breeding season. Individuals maintain a territory which they defend against other individuals.
These animals are recorded to be nocturnal and spend their day hiding in a burrow or hollow log. At ight they emerge to hunt.
Predators and Threats
Eggs may suffer predation from coati, tayra and armadillos. Adults may be preyed upon by jaguars and anacondas.
These animals are threatened by habitat loss and the loss of connectivity with their habitat. Hydroelectric dams may incidentally cause their death. Pollution from gold mining in parts of their range is another threat.
Their small size means they are not seen as a major target for the skin trade. Small numbers may be taken to supply the pet trade.
These animals have a range of alternative common names including Schneider’s dwarf caiman, Jacaré Coroa and Schneider’s smooth-fronted caiman.
The trigonatus portion of their scientific name comes from a Greek and Latin word meaning ‘provided with three corners’ and refers to the shape of the head.
Whaldener Endo, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
William Warby, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Leandro J.C.L. Moraes, Alexandre P. de Almeida, Rafael de Fraga, Rommel R. Zamora, Renata M. Pirani, Ariane A.A. Silva, Vinícius T. de Carvalho, Marcelo Gordo, Fernanda P. Werneck., CC BY-SA 4.0
<https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Vassil, CC0, via Wikimedia Commons
Campos, Z., Magnusson, W.E. & Muniz, F. 2019. Paleosuchus trigonatus. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2019: e.T46588A3010035. https://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2019-1.RLTS.T46588A3010035.en. Downloaded on 27 June 2021.
Crocodiles Of The World. 2021. Schneider’s Dwarf Caiman – Crocodiles Of The World. [online] Available at: <https://www.crocodilesoftheworld.co.uk/animals/schneiders-dwarf-caiman/> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Villareal, R. 2003. “Paleosuchus trigonatus” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed June 27, 2021 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Paleosuchus_trigonatus/
Crocodilian.com. 2021. Crocodilian Species – Schneider’s Dwarf Caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus). [online] Available at: <https://crocodilian.com/cnhc/csp_ptri.htm> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
Crocodile Facts. 2021. Schneider’s Dwarf Caiman facts, pictures, videos and more. [online] Available at: <https://crocodilefacts.weebly.com/schneiders-dwarf-caiman.html> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
The Reptile Database. 2021. Paleosuchus trigonatus. [online] Available at: <https://reptile-database.reptarium.cz/species?genus=Paleosuchus&species=trigonatus> [Accessed 27 June 2021].
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