- Caiman Lizard
- Genus: Dracaena
- Size: to 1.1 m
The Dracaena Lizard is also named “caiman lizard” because of their resemblance to crocodilians. Dracaena lizards are normally greenish or brown with yellow tanned blotches on their sides. They feed on water snails and dive to the bottom of bodies of water to find them. They then bring the snails to the surface, crush the shells with their teeth and swallow the contents. In studies, they were also found to eat tree-living-invertebrates, eggs, and during the dry season they will eat other small animals.
Species of Dracaena
There are two species of Caiman lizard, Dracaena guianensis from the Amazon region and Dracaena paraguayensis from the Paraguay basin. The latter species is only found in the Pantanal.
Caiman lizards mainly use camouflage to avoid predators. If they feel threatened, they often plunge into water to escape. Dracaena paraguayensis was found to escape danger in holes in dry ground or in termite mounds.
Caiman lizards have a complex courtship ritual that involves puffing. They have a relatively small cluth size for body size compared to other lizards. This is thought to be linked to their semi-aquatic nature. Reproductive females were found in both the wet and dry seasons, which means these lizards have an extended reproductive period.
Caiman Lizard Facts
In Brazil’s Amazon, caiman lizards are known as “jacuruxi,” from the word for snake combined with a word for a specific tree, thought to be because of the tree’s unique looking fruit.
In seasonally flooded forest and savannas, Dracaena guianensis can be found either in or close to streams and lakes. Here, they rest in low trees and in the water. This caiman lizard preferred to perch on shrubs close to the lake’s centre.
Caiman lizards are listed on Appendix II of CITES. They were thought to be common before hunting for their skins took place in the 1950-1960s. Habitat destruction from cattle ranching is also linked to their status.
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