Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman


Scientific Name:
Paleosuchus palpebrosus

Northern and central South America

Riverine areas and flooded forest; prefer clean, fast moving streams or rivers with waterfalls

Average Size:
Body Length: up to 5 feet
Weight: 13-15 pounds

20-60 years

IUCN Status:
(LC) Least Concern

Wild: Fish, amphibians, invertebrates
Zoo: Fish, alligator diet, meat, rats

Incubation: about 90 days
Clutch size: 10-25 eggs


Dwarf Caiman Range

About the Animal: Dwarf Caiman are the smallest of the New World crocodilians and are able to tolerate much cooler temperatures than most of their kin. Like most crocodilians, they communicate with others of their kind often, using sound and body signals. They are most often found living singly or in pairs.

Dwarf Caiman are considered a keystone species. Without their presence, populations of fish like piranha would quickly explode, consuming all available resources and decimating the ecosystem.

Mating and Reproduction: Males seek to attract females through impressive physical displays and “rorarin”. Mating happens at night and may take as little as 5-10 minutes or as long as several hours. When eggs are ready to be laid, the female lays them on a riverbank, and both the male and female will bury them, creating a mound over the nest, Both parents guard the nest, but only the female will assist the hatchlings to emerge and protect them for the first few weeks of their lives. If she later encounters one of her offspring, she will recognize them by scent.

Amazing Information: Dwarf Caiman swallow small stones intentionally. These stones stay in one chamber of the stomach (known as the gizzard) where they help to break food apart.

Where in the zoo?: You can find the Dwarf Caiman in the Rainforest Building.