Many people are unaware that there’s a difference between alligators and crocodiles and use both terms interchangeably to describe any large water-dwelling lizard with big teeth. What they don’t realize is that, despite some similarities, the two reptiles don’t look or behave the same. They also belong to different biological families.
So What’s the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles?
1. Crocodiles and alligators have different snouts.
The snout is one of the most noticeable characteristics between alligators and crocodiles. The alligator’s is longer, narrower, and V-shaped, whereas the crocodile’s is longer, narrower, and V-shaped.
The alligator’s nose form differs from the crocodile’s due to their diet and eating habits, which include breaking open turtle shells, whereas the crocodile’s snout is better adapted to hunting general prey such as fish, reptiles, and mammals.
2. Where Can You Find Alligators and Crocodiles?
Crocodiles may be found in Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, North America, South America, and Central America, but alligators are only found in the southern United States and eastern China.
In the United States, an alligator is significantly more likely to be encountered than a crocodile. Alligators can be found throughout Florida and Louisiana, as well as parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Although there is an American crocodile species, it only lives in the southernmost tip of Florida, whereas American crocodiles only live in the southernmost tip of Florida.
In the United States, alligators much outnumber crocodiles. There are about 3 million alligators but only 2,000 crocodiles in the world. Southern Florida is the only region on the planet where you can see both crocodiles and alligators coexisting.
3. Freshwater or Saltwater Habitat?
Crocodiles’ tongues have unique glands that remove excess salt from their bodies. This means they can stay at sea for days or even weeks at a time.
Alligators have these glands as well, but they don’t operate as effectively, hence they prefer freshwater areas, but they may be seen in brackish water on occasion (a mixture of salt and freshwater).
This distinction explains why crocodiles have spread over the Caribbean islands whereas alligators have not.
4. Their teeth aren’t the same.
The snouts of alligators and crocodiles may be distinguished when their jaws are closed because the alligator’s bottom teeth are hidden, but the crocodile’s lower fourth tooth is always visible.
Crocodiles’ teeth typically extend over their lips, giving them a jagged “smile,” while an alligator’s top jaw is larger than its lower, allowing it to hide all of its teeth when its mouth is closed.
5. Alligators or Crocodiles: Which Is Bigger?
Crocodiles can grow to be around 19 feet long, although alligators can only grow to be about 14 feet long, hence crocodiles are bigger in general.
6. Color Differences
Crocodile hides are often a light tan or olive tint, but alligator hides are typically a dark blackish grey tone.
(The color of an alligator’s skin is determined by the quality of the water in which it swims.) Tannic acid from overhanging trees darkens them, while algae greens them up).
7. Which is faster to run and swim: an alligator or a crocodile?
On land, both can go swiftly, but only for short distances. They can both “gallop” and “sprint,” but only when threatened and for a short period of time. A crocodile’s top speed is around 9 mph (14 kph), whereas an alligator’s top speed is around 11 mph (18 kph).
In the water, they’re both far more nimble and swift because they can drive their bodies forward with their long, powerful tails. Crocodiles can swim at speeds of up to 9 mph (15 kph), whereas alligators may achieve speeds of up to 20 mph (32 kph).
8. Is an alligator or a crocodile more aggressive?
While alligators are deadly, they are not as aggressive as crocodiles. When contacted by people, an alligator will normally try to flee by swimming to the nearest body of water.
Wild alligators will only attack humans if they are startled, provoked, or defending their young. Alligators are naturally terrified of people, but with repeated interaction, they may lose part of their dread. Feeding them is nearly always a poor idea, unless under carefully controlled circumstances, because they will lose part of their fear and begin to perceive people as a source of food. Small toddlers and pets can also be mistaken for prey.
Crocodiles, on the other hand, have a far worse temperament and are significantly more prone to attack humans, even if they are not provoked.
The most deadly crocodiles in the world are saltwater crocodiles from Australia, followed by Nile crocodiles. American crocodiles, on the other hand, are among the most shy of the species, seldom attacking people. In the United States, an alligator is more likely to attack than a crocodile, though both are extremely rare.
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