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Black caiman

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noun, plural: black caimans

A large caiman species of the family Alligatoridae that is endemic in the rivers and lakes surrounding the Amazon basin


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. Nevertheless, the species Melanosuchus niger (black caiman) is larger in size as it can grow to more than 16 ft in length and possibly up to 20 ft. It may weigh up to 2,400 lbs. Thus, it is considered as the largest caiman species. It is regarded as the largest reptile in the Neotropical ecozone.1 It is found in the rivers and lakes near the Amazon basin. It may also be found inhabiting the freshwater habitats of South America.

The dark skin coloration is a distinctive feature of Melanosuchus niger adults (hence, the name). Black caimans though may have grey to brown banding on the lower jaw. They also have a large and heavy head, which is advantageous when they catch a large prey.

Scientific classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Superorder: Crocodylomorpha
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Alligatoridae
  • Genus: Melanosuchus [Gray, 1862]
  • Species: M. niger

Scientific name:

  • Melanosuchus niger [Spix, 1825]

See also:

1 Melanosuchus niger Black caiman. Animal Diversity Web. Retrieved from [[1]].