8 Differences Between Crocodiles & Alligators

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Differences Between Crocodiles & Alligators

Many of us often mistake crocodiles for alligators and vice versa, but there are ways to differentiate them. Certain differences between crocodiles and alligators are very obvious actually. Once you know those differences, you will realize that these two reptiles have nothing alike at all. Below are the main 8 differences between crocodiles and alligators that you can easily notice. So let’s see if you can tell them apart after you know their differences.

1Behavior

The question is which one is more aggressive between the two, a crocodile or an alligator? Alligators can be very fast and dangerous, but they are very timid compared to crocodiles. An alligator will generally try to escape if approached by humans by heading for the nearest water. Alligators only attack if they are unexpectedly disturbed or provoked, and in some other cases is when they defend their young.

On the other hand, crocodiles are much more bad-tempered which means they are more likely to attack humans, even unprovoked. Crocodiles are very aggressive, and all other species of them are very dangerous.

Note: Bear in mind that alligators can lose their fear of humans when contact regularly. However, it is a very bad idea to feed them because they will see humans as a source of food instead.

2Color

You can tell the differences between crocodiles and alligators by their color very easily. Crocodiles have lighter colors while alligators have darker colors and tones. Crocodiles are more likely to be grayish in color while alligators are more black and dark. But at the end of the day, the exact shade of an alligator’s skin depends on the quality of the water it swims in.

3Location

Knowing about the location also makes it easy for you to tell the differences between crocodiles and alligators as well. Alligators live only in the southeastern US and eastern China while you can find crocodiles across the world. Basically, you are more likely to encounter an alligator rather than a crocodile if you are in the US. That is because alligators outnumber crocodiles in the US since there are more than 3 million alligators, and fewer than 2,000 crocodiles there.

Fun Fact: Southern Florida is the only place in the world where you can find crocodiles and alligators living side by side.

4Habitat

The habitat indicates clearly which one is which, and the main habitats we talk about are freshwater and saltwater. So crocodiles have special glands in their tongues that excrete excess salt from their bodies. That means they are capable of spending days or even weeks at sea.

Alligators also have these glands, it is just their glands don’t work really well. Therefore, alligators usually stick to freshwater habitats rather than saltwater. However, they can sometimes be found in brackish water where there is a mixture of salt and freshwater. Such difference explains clearly why crocodiles are spread across the islands of the Caribbean, while alligators are not there.

5Size

Size is one of the easiest differences between crocodiles and alligators that you can easily notice. Crocodiles are always bigger than alligators since an adult crocodile can grow up to 19 feet long or more. Whereas alligators, their maximum length is only around 14 feet. Big or small; however, both of them are dangerous animals to us so make sure to stay away from these reptiles.

6Snout Shape

One of the main differences between crocodiles and alligators is the snout. A crocodile’s snout is longer and narrower in a V-shaped kind of shape. While the alligator’s snout is broader and shaped like a U instead. The differences in their snouts reflect to their diet, mainly what they feed on. Alligators’ main dishes are gar, turtles, and other mammals and birds. Their snouts allow them to break open turtle shells easily. Meanwhile, crocodiles’ snout is more suiting for hunting general prey like reptiles and other large mammals.

7Speed

This is among the differences between crocodiles and alligators that you should not try to try in action. When on land, both of them can move very quickly but both for very short distances. Also, both of them can gallop or sprint but only when they are threatened and not for long. Usually, a crocodile is slower than an alligator when it comes to speed because crocodiles are larger.

In water, both of them are much more agile and fast since they can use their long muscular tails to propel their bodies forward. Just like on land, crocodiles are also slower than alligators in the water. A crocodile can swim as fast as 15 kilometers per hour while an alligator can reach up to 32 kilometers per hour.

Fun Fact: Despite their fast speed, fatalities from alligator attacks in the US are very rare. As a matter of fact, people are likely to be killed by dogs, bees, wasps, spiders, snakes, or sharks.

8Teeth

You can tell them apart easily by their teeth. Crocodiles often have many visible teeth sticking out over their lips that provide an evil smile when they close their mouth. Alligators are different. Alligator’s upper jaw is wider than its lower which allows it to hide all its teeth when it closes its mouth. So if you see teeth, that is clearly a crocodile.

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