Smooth-fronted caiman

Smooth-fronted caiman

Smooth-fronted caiman information

The Smooth-fronted Caiman, Paleosuchus trigonatus, is a petite crocodilian native to the Amazon basin in South America. It is the second smallest member of the family Alligatoridae.

Smooth-fronted caiman taxonomy















Smooth-fronted caiman conservation status

Paleosuchustrigonatus is listed as Least Concern on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The estimated wild population is comprised of over 1,000,000 individuals.

Since the skin of Paleosuchustrigonatus is so rich in osteoderms, the hide is not very sought after on the hide market and this has kept hunting on a low level. Habitat destruction and pollution is a risk, but the populations are currently widespread and healthy.

In Guyana, collection is permitted for the pet and tourist trades, but commercial exploitation incentives are low.

Smooth-fronted caiman range

The Smooth-fronted caiman is native to the Amazon Basin. It is found in Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Surinam, and Venezuela.

The range of P.trigonatus overlaps that of P. palpebrosus. Compared to P.trigonatus, P.trigonatus is not very cold tolerant and this is probably why it isn’t found as far south as P.trigonatus.

Smooth-fronted caiman habitat

The Smooth-fronted caiman is a freshwater crocodilian that prefers riverine environments, especially shallow forest streams.

Adults normally spend the day resting in burrows and will travel overland from these burrows to water to feed at night and patrol their territories. 

In Venezuela, Smooth-fronted caimans have been reported from altitudes as high as 1,300 meters (4,265 feet).

Smooth-fronted caiman size and appearance

The Smooth-fronted caiman is the second smallest member of the family Alligatoridae and do not grow larger than 2.6 meters / 8.5 feet. (The other member of the genus Paleosuchus, Paleosuchus palpebrosus, is even smaller.) Most Smooth-fronted caiman males stay around 1.7-2.3 meters / 5.6-7.5 feet.

This species has no infra-orbital bony ridge. The iris is brown but may take on a greenish tinge. Compared to P. palpebrosus, the Smooth-fronted caiman feature more extensive ossification and larger scutes, and its tail is also less flexible.

The Smooth-fronted caiman walks with a distinctive head-raised posture.

Smooth-fronted caiman feeding and diet

The diet of a Smooth-fronted caiman varies with size, habitat and prey availability. This species does not only hunt in water and along the rivers banks; it will also forage in the surrounding forest. Compared to other caimans, juvenile Smooth-fronted caimans eat lot of terrestrial invertebrates and the adults include a larger proportion of terrestrial vertebrates in their diet, e.g. snakes and large rodents. The juveniles also eat quite a lot of fish, but as the animal grows bigger it will eat less and less fish.

Smooth-fronted caiman breeding

The Smooth-fronted caiman lives in relative solitude during most of the year with the exception of the breeding season. Females usually have to reach a length of 1.3 meters (4.3 feet) before breeding and males have to be at least 1.4 meters (4.6 feet). Such lengths are normally not attained until the animals are 10-20 years old.

Before the end of the dry season, the female will start building a mound nest, often very close to a termite mound. The exact reasons for choosing this type of location this remains unknown, but it is believed to be a way for the female to control the temperature within her nest. Using vented heat from the termite mound might be her way of ensuring that her nest stays warm enough throughout the incubation period.   

A clutch normally consists of 10-20 eggs and they undergo a comparatively long incubation time, up to 115 days. As the water level begins to rise as a result of the rains, the hatchlings emerge and disperse over a wide area.

 Smooth-fronted caiman facts

Smooth-fronted caiman fact # 1
The Smooth-fronted caiman is also known as Schneider's Smooth-fronted caiman, Schneider's dwarf caiman, Cochirre, Jacaré coroa, Jacaré curua, and Yacaré coroa.

Smooth-fronted caiman fact # 2
The Smooth-fronted caiman is the second smallest species in the family Alligatoridae; only Paleosuchus palpebrosus is smaller.

Smooth-fronted caiman facts # 3
The name Paleosuchus trigonatus means “ancient crocodile provided with three corners”. Palaios is the Greek word for ancient while soukhos means crocodile. The word trigonatus is derived from trigonos, the Greek word for three-cornered, and autus which is a Latin suffix meaning “provided with”. Trigonatus is a reference to the shape of the head of this caiman.  

Smooth-fronted caiman fact # 4
Smooth-fronted caimans have 78-82 teeth.

Smooth-fronted caiman facts # 5
Juvenile mortality is quite high, while adult mortality is very low in this species.


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