Any member of several species of Central and South American reptiles of the alligator family. Like the rest of the crocodile order, caimans are amphibious, lizardlike carnivores. They live along the edges of rivers and other bodies of water, and reproduce by laying hard-shelled eggs in nests built and guarded by the female. The largest species is the black caiman (Melanosuchus niger), a potentially dangerous animal with a maximum length of about 15 ft (4.5 m). Average lengths for the other species (genera Caiman and Paleosuchus) are 4–7 ft (1.2–2.1 m).