Common caiman, Tinga, Baba, Babilla, Babiche, Cachirré, Caiman Blanco, Caiman de Brasil, Cascarudo, Jacaretinga, Lagarto, Lagarto Blanco, Yacaré Blanco
A large aquatic reptile, the caiman adult is a dull olive to almost black with yellow or black crossbands. Their snouts are long and their fourth mandibular tooth cannot be seen when their jaw is closed. Young are yellowish with darker spots and band. Spectacled caiman are distinguished by a bony infra-orbital bridge between their eyes. Subspecies vary in their color and the size of their head.
The Spectacled caiman can be found in Columbia, Brazil, Costa Rica, Ecuador, French Guiana, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, Surinam, Trinidad, Tobago, and Venezuela. They have been introduced into Cuba, Puerto Rico, and the US. It is very adaptable thrives in many environments including rivers and lowland wetlands, favoring areas with still waters. It will hibernate during summer by burrowing into the mud if its environment becomes too harsh and food is not readily available.
Spectacled caimans live together in loose-knit groups but prefer to be solitary except in the mating season. They are nocturnal and usually hunt at night, being immobile most of the day and staying submerged. In the morning and early afternoon, they will bask on the shore. They remain in the same territory.
Spectacled caimans are carnivorous and their prey changes along with their increase in size. They will eat insects, snails, crabs, shrimps, fish, lizards, snakes, turtles, mammals, and birds. Cannibalism can occur, especially during drought conditions, with many caimans of varying sizes together in small areas.
Spectacled caimans are polygamous. Males attempt to mate with as many females as possible. They gain sexual maturity between 4 and 7 years old. They become aggressive and territorial during the mating season. Social rank is dependent on size: the larger, the more dominant. Mating occurs from May to August. Depending on the local climate, eggs are laid between July and November. 10 to 30 eggs are laid and about 65 to 104 days' incubation is needed. Juveniles stay with their parents for about 1.5 years, for protection from predators.
Spectacled caimans are the species most intensely harvested by humans for their hide. Their skin is used for handbags, shoes, belts and wallets. But some are often killed because they look dangerous, which leads to many species being threatened or endangered. The Spectacled caiman itself is endangered in a number of countries, including El Salvador.
According to IUCN, Spectacled caimans are widely distributed throughout their range. The estimated wild population is probably over 1,000,000. The ICUN classifies them as "Least Concern".
Spectacled caimans are a "keystone species," and control certain prey populations. The balance of entire ecosystems could be upset by their disappearance. They are predators of fish, as well as other aquatic and shoreline vertebrates. They are important members of aquatic communities and riparian shorelines.