CSL
Caiman latirostris (DAUDIN, 1801)


NAMES | DISTRIBUTION | HABITAT | STATUS | APPEARANCE | IMAGES | DIET | BREEDING | CONSERVATION

FAMILY:
ALLIGATORIDAE

A. mississippiensis
A. sinensis
C. crocodilus
C. c. apaporiensis
C. c. fuscus
C. latirostris
C. yacare
M. niger
P. palpebrosus
P. trigonatus

FAMILY:
CROCODYLIDAE

C. acutus
C. intermedius
C. johnstoni
C. mindorensis
C. moreletii
C. niloticus
C. novaeguineae
C. palustris
C. porosus
C. rhombifer
C. siamensis
M. cataphractus
O. tetraspis
T. schlegelii

FAMILY:
GAVIALIDAE

G. gangeticus

DICHOTOMOUS KEY
[German]

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STATUS OF INFORMATION:
This information was most-recently updated January 2009 and is considered up-to-date. Please contact me directly regarding updates or corrections.

COMMON NAMES:
Broad-snouted Caiman, Overo, Yacaré Overo, Ururan, Yacaré de Hocico Ancho, Jacaré de Papo Amarelo, Jacaré Verde, Jacaré de Hocico, Ancho, Brazilian caiman, Tinga

NAME ETYMOLOGY:
> Crocodylus is derived from the Greek krokodeilos which means literally "pebble worm" (kroko = pebble; deilos = worm, or man) referring to the appearance of a crocodile.
> latirostris means "wide nose", derived from lati (Latin for "broad" or "wide") + rostris (Latin for "nose" or "snout")

SUBSPECIES:
Subspecies status has been suggested for some Argentinean populations - Caiman latirostris chacoensis. These are generally smaller (maximum size under 2 m) than populations in other areas. This designation has been widely rejected, and is not officially recognised.

DISTRIBUTION:
[CLICK ON MAP FOR DETAILED RANGE]
Distribution map Argentina (north), Bolivia, Brazil (southeast), Paraguay, Uruguay

HABITAT:
A highly aquatic species which is found primarily in mangroves, marshes and swamps (freshwater and brackish) throughout its distribution, together with habitat associated with numerous small Atlantic river drainages. It has also been found in mangrove habitat surrounding small coastal islands in southeast Brazil. Range overlaps with that of Caiman yacare, but habitat preferences are slightly different - C. latirostris is found in slow-moving water in dense forest, although a wider variety of habitat types can be utilised when its range does not overlap with that of C. yacare. C. latirostris has been successful in colonising man-made habitat such as cattle stock ponds. Both of the above species have a greater tolerance for colder conditions, given the latitudes (e.g. up to 600 m) at which they occur. Their darker colouration is an adaptation to this, being designed to absorb more radiated heat.

STATUS:
     CITES: Appendix I, except Argentina (Appendix II for ranching)
     IUCN Red List: LRlc (LOW RISK, LEAST CONCERN)
     Estimated wild population: 250,000 to 500,000
Summary: Widespread and relatively healthy populations coupled with encouraging management programs

APPEARANCE:
[click on image for enlargement]
Head drawing Classed as a medium-sized crocodilian (maximum length has been reported to be 3.5 m, although most male individuals in the wild do not exceed 2 m. Females never exceed 2 m, and are usually smaller in the wild). As its common name implies, it has an exceptionally broad snout - more so even than that of Alligator mississippiensis, proportionally. There is a characteristic ridge which runs down the snout. The dorsal surface is heavily ossified. Adults tend to be a pale olive green colour, and although some reports state that spots are present on the jaws (similar to Caiman yacare they are not always apparent).

Dentition codeDENTITION:
5 pre-maxillary; 12-14 maxillary; 17-20 mandibular
Total no. of teeth = 68-78 (mean = 72)

IMAGES:
[click on image for enlargement]

Click Female caiman guarding her mound nest Click Top-down view of caiman head Click Head of broad-snouted caiman

DIET:
Specialises in aquatic (ampullarid) snails, but will also take a wide variety of other invertebrates and small vertebrates (e.g. fish, amphibians). Larger animals are able to take larger prey, and their jaws are well-suited to crushing turtle shells. The incidence of fluke parasites in cattle has increased in areas where C. latirostris used to be common. It has been suggested that the decline of the caiman has resulted in increased number of snails - an intermediate host for the parasites.

BREEDING:
Captive breeding in zoos have shown that this species builds a mound nest into which 20 to 60 eggs are usually laid. In the wild, nests will often be built on isolated river islands. Nest construction occurs during the rainy season (although it is slightly earlier in more northerly latitudes), and may be assisted by the male. Eggs are reported to be laid in two layers, which may help to create a slight difference in temperature between the two layers, and hence a slightly different sex ratio in the embryos. Incubation period is approximately 70 days. Females have been observed opening the nest during hatching and assisting the neonates to the water, where they will be guarded for an indeterminate period by either one or both parents.

CONSERVATION:
Although it contains some osteoderms, the skin is more suitable for tanning purposes, and hence is of greater value than that of other caiman species. Commercial hunting in the middle of the century has taken its toll on wild populations. Illegal hunting still persists, but is not now considered to be a threat to the species because caimans are harder to find, making hunting less attractive and more costly when traders can obtain better quality legal skins of higher quality. Although protection for the species has increased, it still faces the major threat of habitat destruction - deforestation pressures (e.g. hydroelectric projects, draining of vast areas for agriculture) are very severe around Brazil and Uraguay where this species exists. Pollution entering waterways from developing cities is also contributing to habitat degradation. There have been no studies on these important factors which may be affecting caiman populations.

Present survey data reveal that in most areas significant areas of original habitat still remain and support healthy populations. Only populations in Bolivia are considered to be severely depleted (the limit of the species' range), although this situation is due to change if the present pressures continue. Presently, legal protection for the species is in force, but is often difficult to implement. Sustainable yield programs are in progress, in addition to the restocking of some depleted areas. Few field studies have been conducted on this species, and more survey data and studies of population ecology are required in those areas developing sustainable yield programs before conservation management can become effective. Ranching programs, initiated in Argentina, currently appear to hold the greatest conservation potential for C. latirostris.

MORE INFORMATION:
For more information on distribution and conservation issues for this species,see the CSG
Action Plan resource.

ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS:
Updated by Alejandro Larriera.

SIGNIFICANT REFERENCES:

  • Diefenbach, CO da C (1979). Ampullarid gastropods: staple food of Caiman latirostris? Copeia 1979: 162-163
  • Larriera, A (1994). Caiman latirostris ranching program in Santa Fe, Argentina, with the aim of management. In: Crocodiles. Proceedings of the 12th Working Meeting of the Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. pp. 188-198
  • Medem, F (1983). Los Crocodylia de Sur America Vol II. Colciencias, Bogota. pp. 270
  • Verdade, LM & Lavorenti, A (1990). Preliminary notes on the status and conservation of Caiman latirostris in Sao Paulo, Brazil. In: Crocodiles. Proceedings of the 10th Working Meeting of the Crocodile Specialist Group. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland. pp. 231-237
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