Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) have well developed osteoderms. Well developed osteoderms are the reason why they are abundant in places like the Orinoco River, whilst the Orinoco crocodile is not. So…
What is an osteoderm? And whats it for?
Osteoderm is basically skin and bone (that is the literal Latin meaning. Many species of crocodilians have bony deposits on their dermis – their skin. In crocodiles and other reptiles, these come in the form of scales. They serve two purposes, in addition to armor.
- Firstly, they transfer heat very quickly.
- Secondly, the release calcium ions into the blood stream to combat acidosis. Acidosis is the acidification of blood when too much carbon dioxide accumulates in the bloodstream. Crocs, of course, spend lots of time under water and accumulate lots of CO2 when holding their breath.
Luckily for spectacled caiman and other species with osteoderms, these bony scales make their skin worthless in trade. That is why they are not hunted for the skin trade. And that is why they are much more abundant than the Orinoco croc.
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