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Ancient Crocodile with Bony Eyelids

Cuvier's dwarf caiman

John White sent so many excellent photographs to me recently, it was very hard to select one as a Pic of the Month. It was a tough choice but I finally narrowed it down to this picture. Somewhat traditional, but so well done. John has photographed an adult Cuvier's dwarf caiman. The scientific name for this species is Paleosuchus palpebrosus which, as the title of this month's picture suggests, really does mean "ancient crocodile with bony eyelids". Ancient refers to theories about the taxonomic status of this species, thought of as one of the oldest of the living crocodylian species. The bony eyelids or palpebrals (hence palpebrosus) give caimans are rather aloof and skeptical look to my mind. Certainly this species has remarkable and distinctive looks, long one of my favourites because it shatters preconceptions about what a crocodile should look like. At least, when it's not partially submerged in the water!

Notice the reddish reflection on the water directly below the eye. This is an artefact of the red eyeshine that all crocodilians display when a strong light is shone directly into their eye. The camera and flash are too close for the eyeshine to appear in the eye, but reflection from the water surface gives a hint of their true eyeshine.


Would you like to enter your best photograph into the 2003 competition? Send me a photograph and I'll include the best here each month. The winner will be voted for in January 2004, and will receive an Ilford Cibachrome print prize to be awarded in early 2004. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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