The Virtual Rainforest
A Neotropical Rainforest
Rainforest Research


Tree Seedlings

Forest Flowers



Army Ants

Bullet Ants
Leafcutter Ants

Rhinoceros Beetle

Swallowtail Butterfly



Keel-billed Toucan

Howler Monkeys

White-faced Monkeys

Three-toed Sloth
Baird's Tapir
White-lipped Peccary
Reptiles and Amphibians:
Red-eyed Tree Frog
Poison Dart Frog
Helmeted Iguana
Eyelash Viper
Terciopelo Viper
Spectacled Caiman
American Crocodile
Human Systems:
Rainforest Boy
Rainforest Girl
Traditional Ecological Knowledge
Rainforest Research

About the Authors





The Crocodilians
American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

Crocodiles are among the most frightening creatures in the rainforest. Along the rivers, bays and ponds of Central America's rainforests, there are two main species of crocodilians: 1) the American Crocodile and 2) the Spectacled Caiman. In Belize and Guatemala, there are also Morelet's Crocodiles (Crocodylus morletii).

A Ten Foot Crocodile

American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)

The largest, the endangered American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) lives along rivers and estuaries and can grow up to 13 feet in length (~4 m; larger in some cases). Crocodiles eat large prey including fish, birds and mammals.

Most crocodiles lay eggs in a nest that is made of leaves or other vegetation that keeps the eggs warm as it decomposes. The mother crocodile protects the eggs and may become aggressive if someone approaches the nest.

American Crocodiles have been killed for their valuable skins (made into crocodile-skin boots and belts) and have been persecuted as a threat to humans. Attacks on humans are very rare, but do occur.


Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)

In the smaller rivers, backwater bays and jungle ponds, the Spectacled Caiman is king of the jungle. These smaller crocodilians reach a maximum of about eight feet (2.5 m). Caimans eat frogs, fish, birds and small mammals.

An interesting fact about caimans and crocodiles is that their eyes reflect a brilliant ruby-red color when shined with a flashlight. This makes locating them at night easy, and can be bad for the crocodiles if poachers are trying to kill them for their valued skins.

A 3 foot (1 m) Spectacled Caiman

American Crocodile Spectacled Caiman

American Crocodile
Scientific Name: Crocodylus acutus

Spectacled Caiman
Scientific Name: Caiman crocodilus

  • Maximum Size: 22 feet (7.3 m)
  • Hatching Size: 10 inches (250 mm)
  • Number of Eggs: 20-60
  • Lower Jaw: 15 pairs of teeth
  • Upper Jaw: 13-14 pairs of teeth
  • Range: United States to Ecuador
  • Status: Vulnerable (IUCN), Endangered (USA)
  • Activity: Day and Night
  • Maximum Size: 7 feet (2.2 m)
  • Hatching Size: up to 10.5 inches (260 mm)
  • Number of Eggs: 15-40
  • Lower Jaw: 18-20 pairs of teeth
  • Upper Jaw: 14-16 pairs of teeth
  • Range: Southern Mexico to Bolivia and Brazil
  • Status: Common
  • Activity: Mostly Night


The Virtual Rainforest

Back to the Rainforest

Copyright Gerald R. Urquhart
Michigan State University

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Virtual Rainforest development supported by grant #0815966 from the
National Science Foundation

Center for Global Change and Earth Observation

Michigan State University