Maya word for alligator

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The Mayas used the same word for various species of crocodiles (Crocodylus acutus and Crocodylus moreleti) and caimans (Caiman crocodilus): A’ayin or Ahiin.

The glyph for Ahiin is the stylised head of a crocodile with a cross in the eye:

Maya ghieroglyph for crocodile



The American crocodile (Crocodylus acutus) can grow up to 4.8 m (16 ft) in length and weight up to 400 kg (880 lb). With its Asian relative the Saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), the American croc is the only species to commonly live in salt water and they are often found in the “cayes” (small islands on the coastline of Belize) and in the Caribbean sea. Although dangerous to humans, American crocodiles are not very aggressive and attacks are rare.

Morelet’s crocodiles (Crocodylus moreleti) are usually smaller than American crocodiles. They grow up to 3 m (exceptionally over 4 m). Morelet’s crocodiles prefer fresh water habitats such as lakes, ponds, rivers, and swamps.

The Spectacled caiman (Caiman crocodilus) is the smallest crocodilian in Central America but also the most common. It lives in a wide range of wetland and riverine habitats.

In Maya lores, crocodiles symbolize the earth floating on top of the primordial sea.


Caiman crocodilus


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