Are There Crocodiles In The Amazon River?

The Amazon River is the largest in the world in terms of extension and volume of water. With 6992 kilometers, it runs through the north of South America and flows into the Atlantic Ocean. These murky and mysterious waters are home to thousands of creatures, but are there crocodiles in the Amazon River?

As a general rule, there are no crocodiles in the Amazon River. The only species of Crocodiles in South America can be only found in the Orinoco River, in Venezuela. But there are at least 4 species of caimans in the Amazon River, including the second-biggest in the world: the Black Caiman.

Crocodiles are currently not found in the Amazon River, but it was not always like this. Recent discoveries show that the region of the rainforest was infested with crocodiles more than 40 thousand years ago. In addition, some say that the Black Caiman can be compared to a crocodile because of its size and strength (there are even human attack stories reported). Finally, to learn more about sharks in Brazil, especially in Rio de Janeiro, check my new article on Sharks Insider as well: Are There Sharks In Rio de Janeiro? (Detailed Guide)

There Was Crocodiles In The Amazon River

As I said before, the only crocodile that can be found in South America is the Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius), which unfortunately is a critically endangered species. Its population is very small, and it can only be found in freshwater environments in Colombia and Venezuela (particularly the Orinoco River and its tributaries). But some recent discoveries can indicate that the Orinoco Crocodile lived in Brazil way back in time, before one of the Ice Ages.

A recent study shows that a fossil found in the Amazon River (in Brazil) is from an Orinoco Crocodile, which lived in the region more than 40 thousand years ago. It’s an interesting discovery because it puts crocodiles on the list of animals that inhabited the area that later becomes the Amazon Rainforest. The terrain and climate were quite different back then, creating the appropriate conditions.

Caimans In The Amazon River

Don’t be mistaken: the fact that there are no crocodiles in the Amazon River does not mean that there are no gigantic predators over there. In fact, there’s no place on earth with a larger variety of alligators than in the Amazon biome. Of the eight existing alligator species across the planet, four of them can be found in the Amazon River: the Black Caiman, the Spectacled Caiman, the Smooth-Fronted Caiman, and the Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman.

  • Black Caiman (Jacaré-Açu)

The Black Caiman sometimes referred to as the “monster of the Amazon River” can be found all over the rainforest. This animal is the largest of all caimans and the second-largest even considering crocodiles. Adult males can exceed 6 meters. There are stories from the riverside population saying they have seen animals up to 9 meters! These are just reports, but they cannot be completely ignored, considering that these are the people who have the closest contact with the species.

They prefer flooded and plain areas, where usually is easier for them to find prey, that occasionally can even include top predators such as Jaguars and Anacondas (I wonder how big an animal needs to be to eat an Anaconda lol). But big prey is only for “special occasions”, and in his day-to-day meals, a Black Caiman usually feeds on small animals such as turtles, fish, capybaras and deer.

  • Spectacled Caiman (Jacaré-Tinga)

The Spectacled Caiman, known in Brazil as the Jacaré-Tinga, is a medium-sized species of alligator. At birth, it measures about 20 centimeters, and in adult life, males can measure between 1.8 and 2.5 meters in length. The females, in adult life, can reach up to 1.4 meters. One of the main characteristics of this caiman is the fact that he can adapt very well to various environments. From the waters of the Amazon River to upland areas and even urbanized areas of Brazil.

Finally, there’s another interesting fact about this caiman. In Brazil, the “Spectacled Caiman” (Caiman crocodiles) received the name “Jacaré-Tinga” because of a particular characteristic: its white back (“Tinga” means “white” in the Tupi indigenous language, and “Jacaré” is the Portuguese word for alligator). They feed on different species of animals: crustaceans, fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and small animals mammals.

  • Smooth-Fronted Caiman (Jacaré-Coroa)

The Smooth-Fronted Caiman is commonly found in small streams deep into the Amazon Rainforest, especially on dryland streams. This species can reach up to 1.5 meters when it reaches adult life. One of its more remarkable characteristics is his long and narrow snout and his short tail (when compared to his body size). In Brazil, it’s also known by the names of Curulana and Jacaré-Curuá. The scientific name of this alligator is based on its characteristics. ‘Paleosuchus’ means ‘ancient crocodile’. ‘Trigonatus’ means “provided with three corners” and refers to the triangular shape of its head.

  • Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman (Jacaré-Paguá / Jacaré-Anão)

Last but not least, the Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman, or “Jacaré-Paguá” in Portuguese, is a species that prefers small streams on dryland. But the Dwarf Caiman is not that small and can grow up to 1.5 meters when adult. It feeds mainly of small crustaceans and fishes. This is the most common species of alligator in Brazil. Fortunately, according to the Red List of Endangered Species of the International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN), this animal is not at risk of extinction.

NameBrazilian NameScientific NameSize
Black CaimanJacaré-Açu / Jacaré-NegroMelanosuchus nigerUp to 6 meters
Spectacled CaimanJacaré-Tinga / Jacaré-De-ÓculosCaiman crocodilusUp to 2.5 meters
Smooth-Fronted CaimanJacaré-Coroa / Jacaré-CuruáPaleosuchus trigonatusUp to 1.5 meters
Cuvier’s Dwarf CaimanJacaré-Paguá / Jacaré-AnãoPaleosuchus palpebrosusUp to 1.5 meters
Species of Alligator In The Amazon River

Black Caiman

The Black Caiman is one of the most incredible animals that can be found in the Amazon River. This caiman is the definition of pure strength and beauty, especially when it swims showing his amazing hard and black skin with some yellow stripes dancing over the water. The eyes and nostrils are large and allow them to be semi-submerged.

The diet of a Black Caiman in genera consists of eating smalls animals, such as crabs, fish, and birds. But this animal is known for occasionally attacking and eating other ferocious predators such as Anacondas and even Jaguars. That’s quite a definition for “top of the food chain”. The Black Caiman is the largest of all alligators in South America, reaching up to 6 meters in length and weighing up to 500 kilos.

Its reproduction occurs once a year when female caimans lay up to 50 eggs. But life is hard for young caimans: their lives are at risk since day one, as they are easy prey for Pythons and even other adult alligators. The average lifespan of a Black Caiman is 80 years but some can reach 100. Unfortunately, this alligator is at risk of extinction, as its leather and meat are highly priced on the black market.

How To Survive A Black Caiman Attack (In The Words of A Survivor)

When such an animal bites someone, the victim hardly survives. On New Year’s Eve 2010, in Mamirauá, São Paulo biologist Deise Nishimura had an unwanted surprise. While she was cleaning fish on the edge of her houseboat she was dragged into the water by a Black Caiman more than 5 meters long. Despite the slim chance of survival, she decided to fight for her life. Deise told her survival story in the following video. It’s in Portuguese but there are English subtitles.

To learn more about this incredible animal and read more details about the amazing survival story of Deise, check this complete article that I wrote about Black Caimans in the Amazon. It is worth the time to read: Black Caiman: The Monster Of The Amazon River.

Are There Alligators In The Amazon River?

The Amazon River is one of the most mysterious places on earth and thousands of creatures that seem to be taken out of a scary movie can be found over there. But a frequently asked question that I’ve been receiving in the blog is: are there alligators in the Amazon River?

As a general rule, four species of alligators can be found in the Amazon River. The biggest and most common of them is the Black Caiman, the largest caiman in South America. Other species that can be found are the Spectacled Caiman, the Smooth-Fronted Caiman, and the Cuvier’s Dwarf Caiman.

As the Amazon River is connected with other regions and even countries through its tributaries is possible to find other species of caimans, but until this day those are the 4 species of alligators that make their homes in the waters cutting the most important rainforest on Earth.

What Crocodiles Live In The Amazon River?

From gigantic snakes that can swallow you alive to microscopic fishes that can invade your genitalia and literally eat it from the inside out, the Amazon River is home to every kind of animal you can imagine. But there’s one type of reptile that can’t be found over there.

There are no crocodiles living in the Amazon River. The only species of crocodile found in South America is the Orinoco Crocodile, in Venezuela and Colombia. But the Amazon region is home to the Black Caiman, technically an alligator, but its size and strength can be compared to a crocodile.

The Black Caiman is the biggest alligator on Earth, and when compared to Crocodiles it’s only smaller than the Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus). Healthy adult Black Caimans can reach up to 6 meters long and weigh half a ton. It’s a beautiful yet dangerous animal. To learn all about it, check this incredible article: Black Caiman: The Monster Of The Amazon River.

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Sharks In The Amazon River: Are There Sharks In The Amazon River?

References For This Article

Those articles were an excellent source of information regarding the species of alligators that can actually be found in the region of the Amazon. It’s all in Portuguese but I’ll let the links below. Shoutout to the responsible journalists and researchers.


What’s up! I’m André, a Brazilian born and bred living in the South of Brazil in a little city called Guarapuava. I’m passionate about traveling and knowing different cultures and that’s why I love to share useful information about the Food, Travel, Facts, and Culture of my beloved country, Brazil.

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