What's the Difference Between Crocodiles & Alligators?

2,234 Views Updated: 25 Aug 2017
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What's the Difference Between Crocodiles & Alligators?

Despite being entirely different animals, people often wonder about the difference between crocodiles and alligators. After all, they appear to be very similar. To the untrained eye, both look like pre-historic swamp lizards, but there are some tricks you can use, so you don’t make a mistake next time.

The quickest way to tell the two reptiles apart is by their smile: In both animals' lower jaws; they have a long tooth on either side. When crocodiles close their mouths, you can see these long teeth protrude from their faces. Alligators, on the other hand, slip them into sockets in their upper jaw. As a general rule, the toothier the crocodilian, the more likely it is a crocodile.

Apart from this, there are some other ways by which you can differentiate between crocodiles and alligators.

#1. Location

Alligators live only in the South-Eastern USA and Eastern China, whereas crocodiles can be found right across the world in Africa, Australia, Southeast Asia, North America, South America and Central America. If you are in the USA, then you are far more likely to encounter an alligator than a crocodile. Although there are American crocodile species, they only live in the southernmost tip of Florida, whereas alligators can be found right across Florida and Louisiana, as well as parts of Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi, North and South Carolina, Texas, Oklahoma, and Arkansas. Alligators also heavily outnumber crocodiles in the USA. There are over 3 million alligators, but less than 2000 crocodiles. Southern Florida is the only place in the world where you will find crocodiles and alligators living side by side.

What's the Difference Between Crocodiles & Alligators?

(Image Courtesy: Mental Floss)

#2. Aggression And Size

There is a general size difference between alligators and crocodiles. An adult crocodile can grow up to roughly 19 feet long, whereas for alligators the length is around 14 feet. Alligators, while definitely dangerous, are relatively timid as compared to crocodiles, and will generally try to escape if approached by humans, usually heading for the nearest water and swimming away. The only time that wild alligators will usually attack humans is if they are unexpectedly disturbed, provoked, or they are defending their offspring. Crocodiles, on the other hand, are much more bad-tempered and far more likely to attack adult humans, even if they are unprovoked.

What's the Difference Between Crocodiles & Alligators?

(Image Courtesy: Wonderpolis)

#3. Color

Crocodiles tend to be more of a light tan, or olive color, whereas alligators are usually a dark blackish gray. The exact shade of an alligator skin depends on the quality of the water that the alligator swims in.

What's the Difference Between Crocodiles & Alligators?

(Image Courtesy: The Balance)

#4. Glands

Crocodiles have special glands in their tongues which excrete excess salt from their bodies. This means that they are capable of spending days, or even weeks at sea. Alligators have glands as well, but they don’t work really well, so they usually stick to freshwater habitats. This difference between alligators and crocodiles explains why crocodiles have managed to spread across the islands of the Caribbean and alligators haven't.

allligator and crocodile

(Image Courtesy: Wikiwand)

Have you encountered an alligator or a crocodile ever? Let us know in comments section below. 

(Featured Image Courtesy: Mother Nature Network)

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