Crocodiles and alligators are often assumed to be the same as semi-aquatic reptiles. There is a difference between them that is distinct.
- Crocodiles have a V-shaped snout and a more prominent fourth tooth on the lower jaw visible when their mouth is closed, while alligators have a U-shaped snout and a less visible fourth tooth.
- Crocodiles are more aggressive and have a wider range of habitats than alligators, which are more docile and prefer freshwater habitats.
- Crocodiles are found in Africa, Asia, Australia, and America, while alligators are native to the Americas.
Crocodile vs Alligator
Crocodiles are found in saltwater environments such as mangrove swamps, estuaries, and deltas, and are larger and more aggressive than alligators. Alligators inhabit freshwater environments such as rivers, lakes, and marshes, whose teeth are only visible when their mouths are open.
|Parameters of Comparison||Crocodile||Alligator|
|Color||Blackish Grey||Olive Green/Brown|
|Length||18 to 19 feet ( 5.8 meters)||14-15 feet ( 4.3 meters)|
|Snout||V-shaped- teeth are seen||U Shaped – Teeth not seen|
|Nesting||Lay eggs in the mud or sand||Near vegetation or clean water|
|Life span||70 to 100 years||30-50 years|
What is a Crocodile?
Crocodile belongs to the Crocodilian family. They are carnivorous reptiles that are carnivores.
A young crocodile eats fish, frogs, insects, and invertebrates. The more enormous crocodiles eat anything; birds, reptiles, mammals and everything else that they eat when they were babies.
Also, the crocodile has stronger sensory pits. They stay mainly in saline waters.
Their salt glands are located on their teeth, jaws and tongue, jaws
What is Alligator?
Alligator belongs to the Alligatoridae family. Alligators are omnivores.
The alligator feasts on the same as the crocodile does. But they can also eat snakes, molluscs, small fish, and turtles and prey on animals they can gulp in one go.
They eat plants and other vegetation near freshwater. The alligator preys on food that they can quickly gulp down, and they don’t chew their food.
Alligators like the digestive juices to do all the hard work. Alligators are reptiles, just like crocodiles, but distinctly different.
Main Differences Between Crocodile and Alligator
In crocodilians, maternal care is critical, and the mother watches her eggs lay like an owl. Crocodilians indulge in acoustic communicating through their extraordinary mechano-reception of their sense of hearing.
The Alligatoridae can withstand colder temperatures and are broader than the crocodilians. Alligators are not a separate family but a crocodile linkage component. The Alligatoridae has smaller heads and obtuse snouts.
The Alligatoridae, with their lizard-like features, has powerful and muscular tails.
Life span and Length
The survival strength of the crocodile is much higher than the alligator as they can adapt to any situation and also handle extreme temperatures and saltiness as well.
Crocodile length also helps them to move faster, catch prey faster and fetch for themselves. On the other hand, the alligator is not entirely carnivorous like the crocodile.
Alligators do get vegetables and need fresh waters to breed. Their life span may or may not have much to do with their length or habitat, and it has more to do with their internal vertebrate systems that underplay.
Snout and Jaws
As shared above, the length of the crocodile is more extended than that of the alligator, wherein the crocodile’s snout is V-shaped, and the Alligator has a U-shaped snout.
The crocodile’s jaws are of the same size and width; hence, their upper and lower teeth interlock perfectly when the crocodile closes their mouth. While the upper jaw of an alligator is wider and overlaps with the lower teeth.
The lower teeth are completely hidden when the alligator’s mouth is closed. This phenomenon is called ‘overbite.
The other noticeable difference is that the large fourth tooth on each side of the alligator’s lower jaw seamlessly sits into the upper jaw like a socket.
While the fourth tooth on each side of the mouth of the crocodile shows to the outside of the mouth as all the other teeth get interlocked when the crocodile’s mouth is closed.
Crocodiles have functional salt glands that are entirely missing in the alligator. This makes the crocodile tolerant of saltwater.
Alligators are always found in freshwater; never will one find them in saltwater.
The alligator is a little new to the world, and crocodiles might have lived way before time. This is why crocodiles live longer and can live in any extreme environment.
In short, a crocodile has an ancestral history of marine life. Crocodiles can adjust to tidal estuaries of the sea. The alligator has lesser osmotic abilities and can only tolerate excessive salt for a shorter duration.
This is the reason alligators are rarely found in coastal areas.
A crocodile can lay 40 to 90 eggs in a given moment. The time duration between gestation and egg hatching takes 6 to 8 weeks. There is no specific mating season for crocodiles.
Crocodiles dig a hole and nest inside the soil to lay their egg. The nest is called a ‘Clutch’.
The alligator mates in June with multiple females in the mating season. The female alligator mates with one.
In July, the female alligator digs a nest in the mud near vegetation to lay her eggs.
The female alligator can lay 10 to 50 eggs in a given time. In September, the babies are ready to be hatched.
The crocodile is brownish or olive green, whereas the alligators are greyish-black in their external appearance.
Regarding movement speed, crocodiles move a little slower than alligator, but the level of aggression in alligators is much tamer than the crocodile.
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Piyush Yadav has spent the past 25 years working as a physicist in the local community. He is a physicist passionate about making science more accessible to our readers. He holds a BSc in Natural Sciences and Post Graduate Diploma in Environmental Science. You can read more about him on his bio page.