Related to the extinct dinosaurs of the Mesozoic era 200 million years ago, the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger) is a top predator in the Amazon. The back caiman resembles the alligator and can grow as long as 20 feet (6 m) in length. This reptile often hunts animals drinking water along a cocha's shoreline. Once an animal is targeted, the black caiman will typically grab the prey by its head or legs and proceed to drown it by pulling the unfortunate creature into the water. The caiman's diet includes fish, capybaras, deer, and other mammals in the Amazon region.
Male and female caimans mate in water. A female then lays as many as 60 eggs in a nest mound located on the shoreline. With the help of their mother, baby caimans hatch in three months and start feeding on insects. As they grow larger, the young gradually begin feeding on fish and later mammals.
The black caiman was nearly hunted to extinction for its skin. In fact in the last century, hunting has reduced the caimen population by 99%. This creature is now found only in remote regions of the Amazon, such as in the Manu River. Other variations of caiman that live in Manu include the smaller white caiman (Caiman crocodilus) and the rare Schneider's dwarf caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus).
The tree boa (Corallus enydris) is a rain forest-dwelling snake that has excellent climbing abilities. In the Amazon, this reptile is frequently seen on the move, slithering among tree branches. Warm-blooded animals, such as bats, compose much of the tree boa's diet. To track its prey, this boa uses special heat sensors, located under its nostrils, in addition to its sight. The tree boa kills its prey by suffocating the animal with its powerful coils. Unlike other snakes, the female tree boa actually gives birth to live young rather than lay eggs. This reptile is considered a primitive snake because it has a pelvis and vestigial hind limbs.
Found in the tropical rain forests of the Amazon, the anaconda snake (Eunectes murinusis) one of the largest snakes in the world. This aquatic and arboreal reptile can grow as long as 30 feet (9 m) and weigh as much as 400 pounds (181 kg). The anaconda snake feeds on almost anything, eating capybaras, agouti, other snakes, and crocodiles. When stalking its prey, this powerful snake usually lurks beneath the surface of waters or watches from overhanging branches, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.
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