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Young crocodile caiman spotted in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

Young crocodile
caiman spotted in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

without rank: Amniotes (Amniota)
without rank: Sauropsida
without rank: Archosauria
Order : Crocodiles (crocodylia)
Family : Alligators (Alligatoridae)
Subfamily : Caimans
Scientific name
Brochu , 1999

The caimans (Caimaninae) are a subfamily of the alligators (Alligatoridae) within the crocodiles (Crocodylia). They are compared to the real alligators (Alligatorinae). Caimans occur exclusively in South America , with the exception of the crocodile caiman, whose distribution area extends to Central America .


The recent six types of Real caiman ( Caiman ), the paleosuchus ( Palaeosuchus ) and the Black Caimans ( Melanosuchus ) since there Pliocene :

The exact relationships between the caimans and other groups within the crocodiles are largely unexplained, an accepted hypothesis is given here.

  Caimans (Caimaninae)  

 Real caimans ( caiman )


 Black caimans ( Melanosuchus )


 Smooth- fronted caimans ( Palaeosuchus )

Tribal history

The basal representatives of the caimans were Necrosuchus ionensisaus from the Paleocene and Eocaiman cavernensis from the Eocene . The Orthogenysuchus olseni also comes from this time. In the Miocene the genus Purussaurus appeared with several species, such as B. Purussaurus neivensis (formerly Caiman neivensis ) and the genus Mourasuchus . The genus Caiman also has its first representative with Caiman lutescens , but according to current knowledge this is identical with Caiman latirostris . This would make this find the oldest fossil from one of the recent crocodile species. The first black caiman Melanosuchus fisheri appears in the Pliocene , the find shows several differences to today's Melanosuchus niger , but there is disagreement as to whether the two species are not identical. The genera Orthogenysuchus and Mourasuchus were previously placed in their own family, Nettosuchidae.

The following fossil species belong to the Caimaninae:

Stangerochampsa mccabei


Brachychampsa montana


Brachychampsa sealeyi




Culebrasuchus mesoamericanus


Eocaiman cavernensis


Tsoabichi greenriverensis


Paleosuchus palpebrosus


Paleosuchus trigonatus


Centenariosuchus gilmorei


Purussaurus neivensis




Orthogenysuchus olseni


Caiman crocodilus


Caiman yacare


Caiman latirostris


Caiman lutescens


Melanosuchus fisheri


Melanosuchus niger

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Relationship of the recent and fossil representatives of caimans according to Hastings and colleagues 2013.


  • Charles A. Ross (Ed.): Crocodiles and Alligators - Development, Biology and Distribution (first edition Hamburg 1989) . Orbis, Munich 2002, ISBN 3-572-01319-4 .
  • Wolfgang Böhme, Martin Sander: Crocodylia, crocodiles. W. Westheide and R. Rieger (Eds.): Special Zoology. Part 2. Vertebrate and skull animals (first edition founded by Alfred Kaestner Gustav Fischer Verlag Stuttgart 1995) . Spektrum Akademischer Verlag, Heidelberg 2004, ISBN 3-8274-0307-3 .
  • Christopher A. Brochu: Phylogenetics, systematics, and historical biogeography of Alligatoroidea. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology Volume 19 Supplement 002 . Society of Vertebrate Paleontology, 1999, ISSN  0272-4634 , pp. 9-100 .
  • Christopher A. Brochu: Crocodylian Snouts in Space and Time: Phylogenetic Approaches Toward Adaptive Radiation. American Zoologist volume 41 Issue 3 . Oxford University Press, 2001, ISSN  0003-1569 , pp. 564-585 .
  • Orangel A. Aguilera, Douglas Riff & Jean Bocquentin-Villanueva: A new giant PURUSSAURUS (Crocodyliformes, Alligatoridae) from the Upper Miocene Urumaco Formation, Venezuela. Journal of Systematic Palaeontology volume 4 Issue 3 . Cambridge University Press, 2006, ISSN  1477-2019 , pp. 221-232 .
  • C. Medina: Crocodilians from the Late Tertiary of northwestern Venezuela: Melanosuchus fischeri sp. nov. Breviora Number 438 . Harvard University. Museum of Comparative Zoology, 1976, ISSN  0006-9698 .

Individual evidence

  1. a b c Rodolfo Salas-Gismondi, John J. Flynn, Patrice Baby, Julia V. Tejada-Lara, Frank P. Wesselingh and Pierre-Olivier Antoine: A Miocene hyperdiverse crocodylian community reveals peculiar trophic dynamics in proto-Amazonian mega-wetlands . Proceedings of the Royal Society B 282, 2015 doi: 10.1098 / rspb.2014.2490 .
  2. ^ Christopher A. Brochu: A New Alligatorid from the Lower Eocene Green River Formation of Wyoming and the Origin of Caimans. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 30 (4), 2010, pp. 1109-1126.
  3. Orangel A. Aguilera, Douglas Reef, Jean-Bocquentin Villanueva: A new giant purussaurus (Crocodyliformes, Alligatoridae) from the Upper Miocene urumaco Formation, Venezuela. In: Journal of Systematic Palaeontology. Vol. 4, No. 3, 2006, pp. 221-232, doi: 10.1017 / S147720190600188X (alternative full text access : ResearchGate ).
  4. Alexander K. Hastings, Jonathan I. Bloch, Carlos A. Jaramillo, Aldo F. Rincon and Bruce J. MacFadden: Systematics and Biogeography of Crocodylians from the Miocene of Panama. Journal of Vertebrate Paleontology 33 (2), 2013, pp. 239-263.

Web links

Commons : Caimans (Caimaninae)  - Collection of images, videos and audio files