The genus Dracaena is a Romanized form of the Ancient Greek δράκαινα – drakaina, which means “female dragon.” The name “caiman” comes from their appearance, which resembles the caiman crocodile of South America. As the caiman lizard spends most of its time either in or around the water, the body of the caiman lizard has adapted in ways which help it to live an aquatic lifestyle more successfully. The best example of this is the long, flattened tail of the caiman lizard which helps to steer it while swimming.
The caiman lizard can be found inhabiting the rainforest and swampland areas of South America in the countries of Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru and Guyana. Caiman lizards are most commonly spotted in areas which are flooded as they are very aquatic creatures.
The caiman lizard’s tongue is forked, and is used to enhance its ability to smell and locate prey. Caiman lizards are large carnivorous predators that only hunt other animals in order to gain their nutrients. Snails are the primary source of food for the caiman lizard along with other invertebrates such as insects and crabs, and occasional larger animals such as fish, rodents and amphibians.
Although little is known about the reproduction of the caiman lizard, they are thought to behave in a similar way to other large lizard species. After mating, female caiman lizards will lay their eggs into a hole in the riverbank which they cover up to protect them from hungry predators. When the baby caiman lizards hatch, they are completely independent as there is no prenatal care from the caiman lizard parents.
Due to its relatively large size and part water, part tree-dwelling lifestyle, caiman lizards have limited predators within their natural environment. Large predatory mammals including jaguars are known to hunt the caiman lizard along with other large reptiles including snakes and crocodiles.
©Photo by: Andy Maddox of Pet-A-Plenty