Crocodilians - a quick reference guide to the species of Trinidad & Tobago
There is only a single species of crocodilian with an established population in the islands, the Spectacled Caiman, Caiman crocodilus. Other species crocodilians may occur as waifs.
The family Alligatoridae contains four genera and seven species, all of them are New World, with one species being found in China. Recent molecular studies show the alligatorids form the sister to the crocodiles and that they shared an ancestor about 102.6 MYA. As a rule, alligatorids have larger, broader, and more robust snouts, than crocodiles, they tolerate colder temperatures than the crocodiles, and the fourth tooth of the lower jaw fits into a pit in the upper jaw. In crocodiles (Crocodylus) the fourth tooth is the largest. Alligatorids have the fourth tooth slide into a socket in the upper jaw, while in crocodiles the fourth tooth slides into a groove on the outside of the jaw. One alligatorid, occurs on Trinidad and Tobago, Caiman crocodilus, locally known as the Alligator or Babiche; but, it is also called the spectacled caiman, caiman, or lagarto. Caiman crocodilus is widespread, ranging from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec, Mexico to Ecuador and it occurs throughout the Amazon Basin.
Spectacled Caiman, Caiman crocodilus juvenile
While there are no known populations of crocodiles from Trinidad and Tobago, two species of crocodiles may occur as waifs. Both species occur in Venezuela, and have been reported from Trinidad waters as recently as 2013. Thus included on this page is a discussion and illustrations to distinguish between the spectacled caiman, the American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and the Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius).
A. is the American Crocodile, Crocodylus acutus, note the shape of the snout and and the two rows of nuchal plates. B. Is the Orinoco Crocodile, Crocodylus intermedius, again note the distinctly different shape of the snout. C. Is the Spectacled Caiman, Caiman crocodilus, note the boney ridge just in front of the eyes and the broad snout.
Checklist of Crocodilians of Trinidad and Tobago
Caiman crocodilus crocodilus (Linnaeus)
Lacerta crocodilus Linnaeus 1758:200. Type locality: Guyana.
Alligator sclerops: Court, 1858:440.
Alligator punctulatus: Reinhardt and Lutken, 1862:22.
Caiman sclerops: Boettger, 1893:20.
Caiman crocodilus crocodilus: Muller, 1923:315.
Caiman c. crocodilus: Mertens, 1970:43.
Crocodylus acutus (Cuvier)
Crocodilus acutus Cuvier, 1807:55. Type locality: "La grande ile de Saint-Domingue, Antilles, Amerique" (= Hispaniola, probably the French portion, which is now Haiti); restricted to "Santo Domingo, Puerto Plata," by Smith and Taylor (1950:364); and further restricted to, "L'Etang, Saumatre, Haiti" by Schmidt (1953).
Crocodylus acutus: Stejneger, 1917:289.
Crocodylus intermedius Graves
Crocodilus intermedius Graves, 1819:344. Type