Yacare caiman

Yacare caiman

Yacare caiman information

The Yacare caiman, Caiman yacare, is a 2-3 meter (6.5-10 feet) long caiman native to the central part of South America.  

Yacare caiman taxonomy

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Reptilia
Order:           Crocodilia
Family:          Alligatoridae
Genus:           Caiman
Species:         Caiman yacare

Until quite recently, this caiman was considered a subspecies of Caiman crocodilus and known by the name Caiman crocodilus yacare.

Yacare caiman conservation status

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

The estimated wild population is comprised of 100,000 to 200,000 individuals.

Although being depleted compared to historical populations, the Yacare caiman is still widely distributed and ranching and sustainable yield programs exist in several countries. Illegal hunting during the 1970s and 1980s had a significant negative impact on this species and organized poaching remains a problem in parts of its range. Habitat destruction is also a risk.

Yacare caiman range

The Yacare caiman is native to Paraguay, south-eastern Bolivia, south-western Brazil, and northern Argentina.

Yacare caiman habitat

The Yacare caiman occurs in many different habitats, including lakes, rivers and wetlands. It seems to like floating mats of vegetation.

Yacare caiman size and appearance

The Yacare caiman reaches a length of 2.5-3 meters and its scales have well-developed osteoderms. The flanks are less ossified and therefore more popular on the hide market.

Yacare caiman feeding and diet

The Yacare caiman feeds chiefly on aquatic invertebrates and vertebrates, e.g. snails, mollusks, crustaceans and fish. Snails make up a significant part of its diet. It is also known to occasionally catch and eat snakes and large specimens can take mammals like the capybara. The Yacare caiman is sometimes referred to as the Piranha caiman due to its appetite for Piranha fish.

Yacare caiman breeding

For this species of caiman, the middle of the rainy season is peak time for egg laying while hatching occurs in March. A mound nest is constructed in which the eggs are laid and the clutch size varies from 21-38 eggs. The female will normally guard her nest while the eggs incubate, but females living in areas with a high hunting pressure are known to abandon the nest once the eggs have been laid.  

Yacare caiman facts

Yacare caiman facts # 1
Within its native range, Caiman yacare is known by names such as Angosto, Coscarudo, Yacare de Hocico, Caimán yacaré, Jacaré, Jacarétinga, Jacará de lunetos, Yacare negro, Caimán del Paraguay, Red caiman, Piranha caiman, (El) Lagarto, and Tinga.

Some of these names are also used for Caiman crocodilus.

Yacare caiman facts # 2
The scientific name Caiman yacare is derived from the word Jacaré (also spelled Yacaré) which is a regional term for alligator.

Yacare caiman facts # 3
The Yacare caiman has the southernmost distribution of all caimans.

Yacare caiman facts # 4
Compared to most other crocodilians, the Yacare caiman breeds quite quickly and this makes it more resilient to hunting.

Yacare caiman facts # 5

The Yacare caiman has 72 to 82 teeth.


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