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Difference between crocodile and alligator

Crocodiles and alligators are the closest living relatives to birds and ancient dinosaurs, the only two groups currently remaining of archosaurs . The order of the crocodilians, or Crocodilia , includes the largest living reptiles on the planet, which have existed with forms very similar to those of today for more than 83 million years, when they appeared in the Cretaceous period .

However, despite the primitive majesty of these animals, not everyone knows how to differentiate well the different families of their order, including crocodiles and alligators. If you want to learn the difference between a crocodile and an alligator , join us in this interesting AgroCorrn article.

You may also be interested in: Difference between toad and frog

Difference between crocodile and alligator

There are five major differences between crocodile and alligator that can help us distinguish these large reptiles:

  • Muzzle shape
  • Size
  • Skin
  • Habitat
  • Behaviour

The snout of the crocodile and the alligator

This is the most immediate and simple method to know if we are facing an alligator or a crocodile, since it can also be observed from quite a distance. Crocodiles have a long , tapered snout , narrow, shaped like a V when viewed from above. Instead, alligators have a more rounded , U-shaped snout .

In addition, the lower jaw of alligators is narrower than the upper jaw, so when they have their mouths closed, their lower teeth are hidden by the upper jaw. Crocodiles, on the other hand, have both jaws the same size, so when they close their mouths, we can see both their upper and lower teeth, interspersed in the different hollows of the jaws. This makes them look much more threatening even with their mouths closed.

Size: what is bigger a crocodile or an alligator?

Crocodiles are usually much larger than alligators. This also depends on the state of maturation of each individual and the specific species but, as a general rule, when faced with two adults, the crocodile will be larger and heavier.

The skin of the crocodile and alligator

The skin of both species reveals small dark spots on their skin, with a pattern reminiscent of splashes and showing a slight depression. These are organs for sensing pressure changes and other variables in the water. Alligators only have them around the jaws, while crocodiles have them all over the body.

Crocodile and alligator habitat

¿ Where lives the crocodile and alligator lives where? This also turns out to be one of the differences between these two animals, because although both can be in fresh water, only crocodiles are able to survive in salty waters thanks to their ability to filter excess salinity. The glands of alligators in charge of this work much worse, so they can only live in fresh water.


It is rare for an alligator to attack a human without provocation, while crocodiles are much more fierce and aggressive, and you have to be much more careful with them, as they immediately go on to defend their territory or their group.

Similarities between crocodile and alligator

These are the main similarities between crocodiles and alligators are as follows:

  • They are both members of the order Crocodilia.
  • They are large and very ancient reptiles.
  • They are carnivores.
  • They inhabit both the aquatic and terrestrial environment.
  • They control their body temperature by lying in the sun with their mouths open.

Learn more about these animals and others like them in this other AgroCorrn post on the Characteristics of reptiles .

Crocodile characteristics

These are the main characteristics of the crocodile :

  • Among the Crocodilia order, only those belonging to the Crocodylidae family are considered true crocodiles.
  • They are semi-aquatic predators that hunt using opportunism, usually hiding in the water waiting for their prey to come to drink, to kill them by shaking them against the water or, if they are very large, dragging them to the bottom to drown them.
  • Among them is the Crocodylus porosus or marine crocodile , the largest living reptile on the planet, which can exceed 8 meters in length and 1,700 kg in weight. In the image below you can see one.
  • Crocodiles also have the most powerful bite in the Animal kingdom, with a power of 268 kg per square centimeter, or 16,470 N.

Learn more about the Characteristics of the crocodile in this other post.

How is the alligator – characteristics

These are the main characteristics of the alligator :

  • Alligators form the Alligatoridae family along with alligators.
  • They are smaller in size than crocodiles.
  • They are somewhat more gentle in character than crocodiles.
  • They only inhabit freshwater areas in subtropical regions.
  • They feed on fish, birds, mammals and even insects or amphibians, because despite their size, they are animals that manage their energy very efficiently, so they actually require very little food.

What is more dangerous a crocodile or an alligator

We have already mentioned that crocodiles are much more aggressive than alligators and that they can attack without prior provocation, at least not obvious to us. As if this were not enough, if we ask ourselves other questions such as what is the speed of a crocodile? or what is bigger a crocodile or an alligator ?, the answers to both lead us in the same direction.

Crocodiles are bigger and heavier and, furthermore, a marine crocodile, the largest of all crocodiles, can reach speeds of 43 km / h in water. So, no matter how cute these animals are, if you see a crocodile in the wild, never go near it because, although crocodiles are more dangerous than alligators , they are both equally dangerous to us.

The alligators and the gharials

The Alligatoridae family not only includes the genus Caiman, there are also the Alligator, the Melanosuchus and the Paleosuchus. Alligators or alligators, commonly called alligators, are divided into two living species, the American alligator and the Chinese alligator . They are one of the few reptiles with a voice , capable of roaring to intimidate their threats. The American alligator (Alligator mississippiensis) is larger than the Chinese alligator or Yangtze alligator (Alligator sinensis), usually up to twice as large.

There are also the gharials or Ganges gharial ( Gavialis gangeticus ) , the only species that the genus Gavialis comprises. They are very easy to distinguish by their thin and long snout, clearly specialized for hunting fish, which form the basis of their diet. It is even more aquatic than its relatives and is in danger of extinction.

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