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American Crocodile & Caiman in Costa Rica

A successful design must not be changed

Crocodile  More than two hundred million years ago on earth, but few changes in its evolution, the Crocodile is one of the most predatorily endowed rainforest animal, with the most powerful mandible. It shared its world with dinosaurs first, and then with birds and mammals, up to the present. Less in size, the Spectacled Caiman is a frequent sight in some lowland rivers. You can take great pictures of both safely, and learn and enjoy these rainforest animal in some of the suitable Costa Rica natural spots within its habitat as well as in some animal exhibitions which include them.

(En Español: Cocodrilos y Caimanes de Costa Rica)

Costa Rica Crocodiles and Caimans

Summary of American Crocodile Facts
Scientific Name: Crocodilus acutus
Habitat: Lowland and tropical dry & rainy forest rivers (Pacific coast rivers, Caribbean big rivers and Tortuguero natural canals).
Length: Average: 2.5-3 m (8-10 feet); Largest: 5-6 m (16-20 feet).
Weight: Average: 170-380 kg (380-840 pounds); Largest: 500-1,000 kg (1,100-2,200 pounds).
Dimorphism: Females are less sized and weighted.
Feeds on: Fishes, amphibians, turtles, aquatic birds and mammals up to a deer size.
Predators: It have no natural predators, but suffer hunting from humans.
Where to See: At Costa Rica Herpetological Refuge (Santa Ana, San José); and from the bridge of Tárcoles river (Central Pacific).

  • The crocodile has a tongue that is fully attached to the bottom of his mouth, so it cannot be stuck out nor moved.
  • On the skull of adults there is a distinctive longitudinal hump, very low, just in front of the eyes, which is diagnostic of the species.
  • Its jaw-closing muscles can produce more than a ton/inch², but the opening muscles are extremely weak in comparisson.
  • Can remain submerged for more than one hour.
  • Use the base of its tail for energy storage (lipids).
  • The powerful tail of crocodile represents almost a third of its whole body mass, and allows it a strong vertical impulse, capable of bring out of the water all the rest of its body.
  • Crocodile sex is determined by the incubation temperature of the egg during gestation: basically females at low temperatures and males at high ones, within the specific range of them.

American Crocodile specimen (Crocodylus acutus). American Crocodile specimen (Crocodylus acutus). American Crocodile of Costa Rica. Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus). Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) has a more rounded snout. 4 m Big Crocodile specimen (Crocodylus acutus). Big Crocodile specimen (Crocodylus acutus), crocodiles are far more massive than caimans. Big Crocodile specimen (Crocodylus acutus) sunbathing its tongue and refreshing its body. Detailed view of Crocodile specimen (Crocodylus acutus). Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) showing its distinctive spectacle-shape near eyes. Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) trying to bask in a cloudy day, while seems as in deep auto-contemplation. A couple of Spectacled Caimans (Caiman crocodilus), falling in love? Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus), realize its distinctive spectacle-shape near eyes.
Crocodiles & Caimans of Costa Rica

 Crocodiles and caimans are among the more biologically complex reptiles despite their prehistoric look. Their external morphology is a sign of their aquatic and predatory lifestyle as well as allowing them to be successful according to that. They have a streamlined body that enables them to swim faster. They also tuck flexibly their limbs to their body sides while swimming, which makes the animal even faster, by decreasing the water resistance due to all this features.

In the Costa Rica tropical rainforest you can see some of the largest crocodiles in the world (although less than Saltwater Crocodile but at same or greater size than the Nile Crocodile), and some animal exhibition includes at least a big American Crocodile (Crocodilus acutus) of about 4 m (12 feet), but in wild can grow about 5-6 m (16-20 feet). Despite its more than 3,000 pounds per square inch of jaw-closing power (by far the strongest bite of any animal thanks to its powerfully developed jawbone muscles), the female crocodile takes motherly care of its offspring in mouth and protects them for some months after hatching. Crocodiles are very fast over short distances, even out of water.

Caimans (Caiman crocodilus) are smaller than crocodiles and are not harmful to people. Eats fishes, amphibians and other small animals. The main differences among these two reptiles are the more pointed snout in crocodiles as well as the exhibition of their lower teeth. Besides of this the caiman has a distinctive spectacle-shape near eyes. But both depends on environment heat, as sunlight, to warm its bodies and be actives, because of its lacking of body thermal regulation. If get too hot, they need to lay mouth opened for exposing its tongue to fresh air to keep body temperature regulated; but from sunlight they get vitamin D as well, as we do while tanning. Newly hatched crocodiles and caimans eat insects and small amphibians, but if disregard itself they can be food for Jabirus, Wood Storks or Great Egrets. At tropical rainforest, adult crocodiles and caimans has no predators except for, unfortunately, human hunters.

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