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noun, plural: caimans

A crocodilian species belonging to the subfamily Caimaninae


Caimans are a crocodilian belonging to the subfamily Caimaninae of the family Alligatoridae. Alligatoridae is a family comprised of two sub-families: (1) Alligatorinae (true alligators) and (2) Caimaninae (caimans).

The caimans are found living in several tropical habitats in South and Central America such as swamps, marshes, mangrove rivers, and lakes. They have a scaly skin and smaller in size compared with alligators. The average length is about 6.6 ft to 8.2 ft. Their weight may range from 13 to 88 lbs. Nevertheless, the species Melanosuchus niger (black caiman) is larger in size as it can grow to more than 16 ft in length and may weigh up to 2,400 lbs. Thus, it is considered as the largest caiman. It is found in the rivers and lakes near the Amazon basin. Paleosuchus palpebrosus (Cuvier's dwarf caiman) is regarded as the smallest caiman. Its length ranges from 3.9 to 4.9 ft.

Apart from the smaller size, the caimans can be differed from the alligators in laking a bony septum between the nostrils. The caimans also have longer, slender teeth. Their ventral armor is an overlapping bony scutes that form from two parts united by a suture.1

Word origin: Spanish caiman, Portuguese caimão, Galibi Carib acayouman

Scientific classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Superorder: Crocodylomorpha
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Alligatoridae
  • Subfamily: Caimaninae

Scientific name:

  • Caiman spp.

Other common name(s):

  • cayman

See also:

1 Caiman. Retrieved from [[1]].