Dwarf caiman

Paleosuchus palpebrosus

Dwarf caiman are the smallest living member of the alligator and crocodile family. They live in flooded forests and areas with clean, fast-flowing rivers in South America, including: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Surinam and Venezuela. They are carnivores. The dwarf caiman is also called Cuvier's dwarf caiman, Cuvier's smooth fronted caiman, Cachirré, Jacaré pagua, Coea, or musky caiman.

Caiman behavior and facts

  • Caiman skin is heavily armored with bone on the back and stomach, protecting them from predators and reducing injury from being tossed about in fast-flowing rivers.
  • Caiman are nocturnal. During the day they burrow, and emerge to travel or hunt at night.
  • They live alone or in pairs.
  • Juvenile caiman eat small invertebrates while adults eat fish, crab, mollusks, shrimp and terrestrial invertebrates.

From birth to death

  • Females build a hidden nest in mounds of vegetation and lay a clutch of 10 to 25 eggs.
  • Incubation: about 90 days
  • Hatchlings may not enter the water until the end of their first day.
  • The female may move the young to water but no other care has been noted.

Vital statistics

  • Males: 5 feet
  • Females: 4 feet


Cites II IUCN Low Risk

Dwarf caimans, the Oregon Zoo and you

The zoo's dwarf caimans live in the Amazon Flooded Forest exhibit. Their diet includes fish and mice.

Dwarf caiman are threatened by habitat destruction and water pollution from gold mining.

Dwarf caimans at the Oregon Zoo

The Oregon Zoo houses a female dwarf caiman born on Nov. 14, 1999.