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Black Caiman
Conservation status
Scientific classification
Kingdom: Animalia
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Reptilia
Order: Crocodilia
Family: Alligatoridae
Genus: Melanosuchus
Species: M. niger
Binomial name
Melanosuchus niger
Spix, 1825

The black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) is a crocodilian. It is a carnivorous reptile that lives along slow-moving rivers and lakes, in the seasonally flooded savannas of the Amazon basin, and in other freshwater habitats in South America. Once common, it was hunted to near extinction primarily for its commercially valuable hide. It is now listed as Conservation Dependent.[1]



The black caiman has a bony ridge over red eyes, and black, scaly skin. The skin coloration helps with camouflage during its nocturnal hunts, but may also help absorb heat (See thermoregulation).


The black caiman is one of the largest reptiles. It is the largest predator in the Amazon basin and possibly the largest member of the family Alligatoridae. Most adult black caimans are 3 to 4.26 meters (10-14 feet), with old males rarely growing larger than 5 meters (16.5 ft). The black caiman broadly overlaps in size with the American Alligator, although it is on average larger at maturity. In some areas (such as the Araguaia River) this species is consistently reported at 4-5 meters (13.2-16.5 ft) in length, much larger than the Alligator (which rarely even reaches 4 meters). Several unconfirmed sources report that the black caiman can grow to 6 meters (19.8 ft) or more.[2] It is, however, the 3rd largest crocodilian in South America behind the American Crocodile and Orinoco Crocodile.


Immature specimens eat crustaceans and insects but quickly graduate to eating fish, including piranhas, catfish, and perch, which remain the primary food source for all black caiman. Various prey will be taken by opportunity, includes turtles, birds and mammals, the latter two mainly when they come to drink at the river banks. Larger specimens can take tapirs, anacondas, deer and capybara. Jaguars are a known predator of all other caiman species and juvenile black caimans, but mature black caimans likely have no natural predators, as is true of other similarly-sized crocodilian species (given the size, weight and immense biting strength). Their teeth are designed to grab but not rip, so they generally try to swallow their food whole after drowning it. Their main predator is humans, who hunt them for leather or meat. There are tales of this species devouring humans and given its size this is most definitely probable, although (like the critically endangered, but potentially dangerous Orinoco Crocodile of Venezuela) it is very unlikely humans have been attacked in modern times, due in part to the species' low population. And given that most man-eaters in other species tend to be large adult males, this lowers the probability even more.


In December, females build a nest of soil and vegetation, which is about 1.5 meters (5 ft) across and 0.75 meters wide (2.5 ft). They lay from 50 to 60 eggs, which hatch in about six weeks. It has been shown that these animals frequently remove their young from the nest,in their mouths [thus the belief of some, they eat their young] at hatching, and transport them to a 'holding pool' area. The mother will even assist hatchlings to break out of their eggs, [they 'squeak' inside the egg, which the mother hears] which are tough and leathery, by chewing the egg to break it open for the young to emerge. The mother will look after her young for several months. The female black caiman only breeds once every 2 to 3 years.

In Fiction

They were also mentioned in Matthew Reilly's best selling book "Temple", where they are constantly eating people that fall in the water. As well, it was featured rather prominently in "Amazonia" by James Rollins wherein a Special forces soldier is eaten by a Black Caiman after it capsizes the inflatable boat in which he is riding.


  1. ^ Ross J.P. (2000). Melanosuchus niger. In: IUCN 2000. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Downloaded on 5 May 2006. Database entry includes a brief justification of why this species is Conservation Dependent.
  2. ^

External links



Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From Wikispecies

Melanosuchus niger


Main Page
Cladus: Eukaryota
Supergroup: Unikonta
Cladus: Opisthokonta
Regnum: Animalia
Subregnum: Eumetazoa
Cladus: Bilateria
Cladus: Nephrozoa
Cladus: Deuterostomia
Phylum: Chordata
Subphylum: Vertebrata
Infraphylum: Gnathostomata
Superclassis: Tetrapoda
Classis: Reptilia
Subclassis: Diapsida
Infraclassis: Archosauromorpha
Divisio: Archosauria
Subdivisio: Crurotarsi
Superordo: Crocodylomorpha
Ordo: Crocodilia
Subordo: Eusuchia
Familia: Alligatoridae
Subfamilia: Caimaninae
Genus: Melanosuchus
Species: Melanosuchus niger


Melanosuchus niger (Spix, 1825)

Type locality: "Fluminis Amazonium et Solimoens", Brazil

Holotype: Syntypes: ZSM 3,0; ZSM 2480,0; ZSM 3039,0


  • Caiman niger Spix, 1825
  • Melanosuchus nigerKing & Burke, 1989
  • Caiman niger — Poe, 1996
  • Melanosuchus nigerZug et al., 2001


Vernacular names

Български: bg:Черен кайман
Deutsch: Mohrenkaiman
English: Black Caiman
Español: Caimán negro
Français: Caïman noir
Italiano: Melanosuchus niger
עברית: קיימן שחור
Nederlands: Zwarte kaaiman
日本語: クロカイマン
Polski: Kajman czarny
Português: Jacaré-açu
Русский: Чёрный кайман
Suomi: Suokaimaani
Svenska: Svart kajman


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