Our spectacular, Spectacled Caimans might look a little bookish with their ridged eye-rings, but they’re anything but reserved. Although typically shy as hatchlings, cute little caiman grow up to be big, bold, aggressive crocodilian. It’s a common misconception that caiman are tiny. In fact, these predators can grow to a whopping eight or nine feet long, and are quite similar to the American Alligator in size.
Found in the swamps of South and Central America, the Spectacled Caiman is a modern day dinosaur. Females make adoring and dedicated babysitters, and just one will look after the babies from several families, protecting them from potential dangers, even if they aren’t her own. While they might look lumbering and a little Jurassic, these creatures have benefitted from millions of years of evolutionary tweaking. The caiman design has reached its predatory pinnacle. Here are some of its most exciting adaptations.
Dappling the caiman’s rounded jaws are hundreds of teeny-tiny, pressure sensitive dots. No, they’re not freckles, these dots detect minute changes in the atmosphere around them when they’re submerged in murky water, meaning they can quickly swivel and devour prey in one lethal chomp!
Caimans have three sets of eyelids (as if their own spectacles weren’t enough). Their third set of eyelids is made of filmy, transparent material, acting as underwater goggles to help this sneaky predator see underwater.
When a light is shone on the caiman’s eyes at night-time, their retinas reflect back a ruby-red glow, which has made them particularly vulnerable to hunting. Indeed, they are the most heavily harvested creature by humans for the hide industry.
The caiman might look slow, but these creatures have adapted to get around water in a flash, and caiman can swim up to 30 mph, with streamlined legs and claws that propel them with ease through water and mud. Their tails are articulated, and move freely, allowing them additional propulsion and whip-fast momentum in the water.
While it’s probably not a good idea to try insulting one, the caiman could be described as thick-skinned, with strong, outer armour and rough scales to protect it from its harsh environment, and any predators. Camouflage is a second line of defense, and like a modern warfare tank, the caiman’s body armour is adapted to match the colours of its environment.