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The Specs on Caiman crocodilus

Adult spectacled caiman on mud bank

This month's photograph comes from Jeff Bowers and shows a large adult spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) sitting on the muddy banks of the Rio Frio in northern Costa Rica, approximately 3 miles from the Nicaragua border. Spectacled caimans, also known as common caimans, have earned their name through the bony ridge connecting their eye orbits - from the front, it gives the impression that they're wearing spectacles. However, there's nothing wrong with their eyesight. Caimans, like all other crocodilians, have exceptionally sensitive eyesight at night. Their retinas are covered with a high density of rod-like cells. We also have similar cells in our retina, and they help to detect low levels of light, but caimans have much higher densities of rods. Perhaps surprisingly, caimans also have cone cells in the retina. We know that cone cells are excellent at detecting different wavelengths of light - in other words, different colours. That means that crocodilians can see in colour, and experiments have shown that they can tell the difference between primary colours quite easily. Why a caiman would benefit from seeing in colour, however, is not quite so apparent.



Would you like to enter your best photograph as a potential Pic of the Month? Send it to me and I'll include the best here each month. Each year I run a competition where the best photograph each year is awarded an Ilfochrome print. The only criteria for submitting a photograph is this: it must capture the attention.


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