Paleosuchus palpebrosus

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A caiman species that is regarded as the smallest crocodilian, and is endemic in northern and central South America


Alligatoridae is a family comprised of two sub-families: (1) Alligatorinae and (2) Caimaninae. Caimans are a crocodilian belonging to the subfamily Caimaninae. They have a scaly skin and smaller in size compared with alligators with an average length of about 6.6 ft to 8.2 ft. The species, Paleosuchus palpebrosus, is considered as the smallest caiman species (as well as the smallest crocodilian). Its length ranges from 3.9 to 4.9 ft. It weighs typically about 13 to 15 lbs. It may be the smallest but it has a tough body armor to protect against predators.

The species is more commonly known as Cuvier's dwarf caiman. In 1807, Georges Cuvier, a French zoologist, was the first to describe the species. The species is endemic to the northern and central South America. It inhabits the riverine and the seasonally flooded forests near lakes, as well as in rivers and streams. It is capable of tolerating colder water compared with other alligator species. The adult feeds on fish, amphibians, and invertebrates (e.g. large mollusks).

Scientific classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Superorder: Crocodylomorpha
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Alligatoridae
  • Genus: Paleosuchus
  • Species: P. palpebrosus [Cuvier, 1807]

Common name(s):

  • Cuvier's dwarf caiman
  • musky caiman
  • dwarf caiman
  • Cuvier's caiman
  • smooth-fronted caiman
  • wedge head caiman

See also: