Alligator vs Crocodile: Interesting Similarities And Differences

Alligator vs crocodile

Is it a crocodile there? or an alligator? Alligator vs Crocodile, Can’t tell the difference?

No worries, Reptileszilla will make sure you have all the information you need about these two animals that are fairly similar, yet have some variances. Keep on reading the interesting debate of Alligator vs Crocodile. 

The similar creatures we have to dinosaurs are crocodiles and alligators. They originate more than 70 million years ago. These ‘living fossils’ haven’t altered much in look or behavior since then.

We’ll go over the primary differences between alligator and crocodile species, as well as where you may find them, what they consume, and how they interact with humans.

Continue reading to learn about the similarities and differences between alligators and crocodiles.

Alligator vs Crocodile: A Brief Overview

Baby alligator vs baby crocodile

Crocodiles and alligators belong to the same category, Crocodilia. As aforementioned, they’ve been around for about 200 million years, outlasting even the dinosaurs! 

These semi-aquatic creatures, which means that they can survive on both land and water. They are famous for being outstanding stealth predators with sharp eyesight and powerful jaws.

The name “alligator” comes from the Spanish word “el Lagarto,” which literally means “lizard.” “Any broad-snouted crocodilian” is a broad definition of it. Their group is known as Alligatoridae within the Crocodilian category.

Crocodile is derived from the Ancient Greek word krokódeilos, which also means “lizard.” Crocodylidae is a family within the Crocodilian group.

 While there are only two live varieties of alligators, on the other hand, there are over a dozen different species of crocodiles.

The following is a complete list of alligator and crocodile species:

Alligator Species:

  • Chinese (sinensis)
  • American (mississippiensis) 

Crocodile Species:

  • American (Crocodylus acutus)
  • Cuban (Crocodylus rhombifer)
  • Dwarf (Osteolaemus tetraspis)
  • Saltwater (Crocodylus porosus)
  • Siamese (Crocodylus siamensis)
  • Slender-Snouted (Crocodylus cataphractus)
  • New Guinea (Crocodylus novaeguineae)
  • Nile (Crocodylus niloticus)
  • Orinoco (Crocodylus intermedius)
  • Philippine (Crocodylus mindorensis)
  • Freshwater (Crocodylus johnsoni)
  • Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
  • Morelet’s (Crocodylus moreletii)
  • Mugger (Crocodylus palustris)

Appearance: Alligator vs. Crocodile

crocodile vs alligator

Crocodilians have a lizard-like physique with strong, scaly skin, an extended snout, and tails. They have four little appendages (legs) compared to their whole bodies, webbed feet, ears, nose, and eyes on top of their heads.

Crocodilians, like other reptiles, are cold-blooded and need their surroundings to properly control their body temperature (e.g., by keeping themselves in the sun to get warm, getting into the shade or water to cool down whenever needed, etc.).

Their jaws are likewise distinctive, with extremely robust muscles for shutting and weak ones for opening.

Alligator Identification

Alligators have darker skins than crocodiles, which are frequently black or dark gray in appearance. The snouts of alligator and crocodile species differ significantly.

In certain lighting, the American alligator appears practically black. Its hue is substantially darker than a crocodile’s.

Alligators are known for their broad, U-shaped snouts, which aid them in breaking through strong prey shells. Only the teeth from the upper section of the alligators’ jaws are visible when they close their lips.

In the wild, alligators can live for 30 to 50 years, while a few have been known to survive up to 70 years in captivity.

Alligators are shorter than crocodiles, weighing between 70 – 1,000 pounds in general. Chinese alligators are generally typically smaller than their American counterparts, measuring 4.5 to 5 feet in length compared to 10 to 15 feet for American alligators.

Crocodile Identification

The color variation between alligators and crocodiles is one of the most noticeable. Crocodiles, on the other hand, have a lighter brown, greenish, or grayish complexion than alligators.

Crocodile snouts are long, thin, and pointy, contrasting alligator snouts (or “V-shaped”). These snouts are ideal for piercing the diversity of food eaten by crocodiles all around the world.

Crocodiles also exhibit toothy grins when they shut their mouths, with teeth visible in their mouths.

Crocodiles have a lifetime of 70 to 100 years, yet their size varies depending on the species.

The shortest species (the dwarf crocodile) may grow up to 6 feet long and weigh roughly 13 to 15 pounds, while the largest one (the saltwater crocodile) can grow up to 20 feet long and weigh almost 2,000 pounds.

Caimans are another reptile that looks a lot like crocodiles.

These creatures are smaller than crocodiles in general, with a U-shaped nose contrasted with a crocodile’s V-shaped snout. Caimans and crocodiles have different environments, with crocodiles present all over the earth and caimans exclusively found in Central and South America.

Where can you find alligators and crocodiles?

Where to find alligators & crocodile

Only China (Eastern; primarily in the Yangtze River) and the United States have alligators (Southern; particularly Florida and Louisiana). Alligators like warmer climes and watery settings, such as swamps, ponds, and rivers, because they can’t metabolize salt like crocodiles.

Crocodiles, unlike their alligator family, can exist in both freshwater and saltwater environments. Because of their versatility, they are more likely to be found all over the planet. In fact, Antarctica and Europe are the only continents without crocodiles. Crocodile populations are concentrated in Central Africa (Nile crocodile) and Asia (Borneo; saltwater crocodile).

Dietary Differences Between Alligators and Crocodiles

Crocodiles and alligators both have sluggish metabolic functions and are carnivorous. Because they are unable to chew, they are known to consume their prey altogether. Birds and fish, as well as other reptiles, small animals, and even fruits, are all eaten by alligators.

Crocodiles, on the other hand, like to consume frogs, birds, fish, crustaceans (crabs), and big animals due to their saltwater habitat (wildebeest and zebras).

Bats that gather water by dipping their bellies in waterways are the perfect food for ravenous crocodiles!

Apex predators include alligators and crocodiles. This indicates they are at the peak of their food chains and are essential to the biodiversity of an environment. These animals have no natural predators, as do apex predators like large cats, orcas, and people.

How Do Alligators and Crocodiles Hunt?

Diet for alligator and crocodile

Alligators and crocodiles are big, apex predators that are among the fiercest animals on the planet. Another fascinating parallel is that they both survive in aquatic environments, typically living around coasts and spending a lot of time in the water.

Due to their nictitating layer, which covers their eyes underwater, alligators have poor vision in the water, but they are extremely sensitive to vibrations, making them excellent hunters. On the ground, their vision is excellent, particularly at night. They’re also quite good at detecting vibrations.

Crocodiles have excellent nocturnal eyesight and possess the same third eyelid as alligators. They can discover prey and perceive the environment surrounding them even at night thanks to their domed sensing element, organs that enable them to notice pressure changes. Crocodiles, of course, have the means to find and kill their prey.

Examine how each reptile goes about catching and killing its prey. The similarities are intriguing, but not entirely unexpected.

Alligators Hunting Techniques

Alligators are ambush predators who take advantage of opportunities. That is, they wait for their target to approach and then attack when the conditions are suitable. Alligators will frequently wait with only their eyes and nose above water, the rest of their body submerged.

When their target gets near enough to the water’s edge, possibly to drink, the alligator will sprint towards it, seize it with its fangs and strong jaws, and destroy it. Other times, they would hide in thick grasses and ambush animals.

Alligators have a variety of intriguing ways of killing other animals. Killing adversaries is as simple as clamping down with their teeth, killing the victim, and swallowing it. Their bite is powerful enough to puncture the shell of a turtle.

When hunting in water, alligators will frequently take their food from the water’s edge and drown it before devouring it.

Alligators may also kill other animals by doing a “death flip.” Apparently, they take a piece of their prey and roll it about in their body until it dismembers or dies. Larger creatures, such as boars or bears, can be subdued and dismembered using this approach.

They will also seize their prey and shake it until the bones and flesh of the animal are broken.

Alligators are excellent hunters who are rarely threatened by other creatures in their environment.

Crocodile Prey Techniques

Crocodiles are not as swift on the ground or in water as alligators, but their size is unrivaled. They are ambush predators by birth, employing their incredible senses to locate adversaries and then destroying them with their formidable jaws and fangs.

Crocodiles, similar to alligators, await in the water for prey to arrive to drink or cool down before striking. They will trap their target and pull them into the water to drown them, devour them whole, beat them, or use a death roll to severely damage their prey until it dies.

Crocodiles’ size benefits them by allowing them to eat huge prey such as wildebeests and even sharks. Their stomachs are acidic, which helps them digest skulls, hooves, and other animal remnants.

Crocodiles are scavengers that will not hesitate to seize a kill. Few animals like to compete for food with a crocodile.

Ultimately, these two species share comparable hunting instincts and a number of evolutionary characteristics that make them formidable killers.

Crocodile vs Alligator: Habits and Behavior Patterns

Behaviors of crocodile and alligators

Believe again if you think crocodilians only slink across the water hunting for prey. Crocodiles and alligators have several unusual habits and social activities that are unique to their group.

Fun and Socialization

Crocodiles are the reptiles with the highest social behavior. Crocodiles, despite their reputation as solitary animals, will band together for hunting and rearing their young; they have even been known to enter long-term partnerships!

Crocodiles have a hierarchical society based on size and height (the biggest wins! ), which decides who gets the greatest place for enjoying the sunshine (i.e., a “basking spot”) to help control their body temperature, and who receives preferential eating in huge group feedings.

They are also famous to interact with one another, as well as other animals including people (in captivity). Crocodiles are still violent creatures (especially when it comes to their area or kids) and therefore will try to kill people if irritated or threatened.

Alligators are less gregarious than their reptile relatives, yet they socialize when sunbathing or swimming. Congregation means a group of alligators that is built up of many smaller alligators, rather than bigger ones who are more hostile and solitary.

When the temperature gets too hot, alligators excavate “gator holes” in the soil or mud. They get protection from harsh temperatures through these tubes (hot and cold).

Movement

Alligators and crocodiles are both athletic in terms of mobility: they can both sprint on the ground at speeds of around 11 miles an hour, but their specialty is swimming. Alligators and crocodiles can swim at rates of up to 20 miles an hour, and can remain underwater for up to an hour.

Mating

Alligators begin mating in late spring and continue into the summertime when they aren’t hunting for prey (April-June). Crocodiles don’t start breeding until the summer (July-August). Alligators and crocodiles may produce dozens of eggs at once, with the former laying an average of 20-50 eggs in each group and the latter laying an average of 10-60 eggs per batch.

Crocodiles vs Alligators Diseases

Several disease germs have impacted crocodiles, including poxvirus,  Streptococcus analgesia, Dermatophilus, and Chlamydia.

Whereas the most common illness known to alligators is the “Brown Spot Disease” which affects the animal’s belly scales. It occurs as a little brownish staining at the corners or edge of a scale, which gives the condition its name.

What Do Alligators, Crocodiles, and Humans Have in Common?

Alligators and crocodiles are becoming more common in human habitats as the human population grows. Climate change poses a hazard to alligators’ freshwater ecosystems, since rising sea levels may bombard river systems with saltwater.

Which is more dangerous to humans, the alligator or the crocodile?

Is crocodile more dangerous than alligator

Although both alligators and crocodiles have killed humans in history, multiple reasons indicate that crocodiles are significantly more deadly to humans. The following factors influence how dangerous these species are to humans:

  • Aggression
  • Human Interaction
  • Population
  • Size
  • Power

Crocodiles are significantly more ferocious than alligators, who prefer to flee when approached by humans. On the one contrary, many alligator attacks on people have happened in water, where humans unwittingly impersonate prey or when the alligator is deliberately looking for food. In the United States, they kill roughly one person every year.

Crocodiles, on the other side, kill over 1,000 people each year in Africa only. They are significantly more violent than alligators, and their enormous size causes more deadly encounters than non-fatal assaults. They have a tiny population in the United States, which is advantageous.

Crocodiles and alligators both have big populations that live in close proximity to people. In Florida, for instance, the alligator population is abundant, but attacks on humans, particularly deadly assaults, are uncommon.

Crocodiles are more harmful to humans because of their enormous size and hostility. When a crocodile has you in its grip, it’s practically hard to fight back. In the case of an alligator vs. crocodile encounter, you have a greater chance than the other way through.

Is A Crocodile Faster Than An Alligator?

While alligators and crocodiles appear to be sluggish while sunbathing in the sun, they can readily outpace humans. Gators have an edge in terms of speed. Alligators are significantly quicker than humans.

An alligator can reach speeds of up to 30 miles per hour on ground! Crocodiles can only attain speeds of roughly 20 mph over a short distance.

The speed of an alligator in the water is slower, roughly 25 miles per hour. The speed of a crocodile is likewise slower around 18 miles per hour.

Crocodile Lifespan vs. Alligator Lifespan

Mature alligators and crocodiles tend to stay in the same place for a long period. They are, and besides, at the top of the food chain and difficult to kill in the environment. Alligators may live from 30 to 60 years at best.

Crocodiles have a lifespan of 20 to 70 years, making them slightly longer-lived than their relatives. The alligator loses another again in the alligator vs. crocodile fight.

Crocodiles may live to be hundreds of years old and grow to be enormous, making them long-term predators in a particular area.

Crocodile and alligator predators

Both alligators and crocodiles confront external risks despite being apex predators. Consider some of the most prevalent predators that each must contend with.

When alligators are immature, they are highly susceptible to the following predators:

  • Snakes
  • Bobcats
  • Otters
  • Alligators
  • Sharks
  • Bears
  • Eagle
  • Great horned owls
  • Humans

In fact, most of these species are also prey for an adult alligator.

Crocodiles are caught upon while still maturing, and their predators include:

  • Sharks
  • Rhinos
  • Bears
  • Jaguar
  • Lions
  • Hawks
  • Eagles
  • Monkeys
  • Humans

Note that many of these predators target these reptiles’ eggs or young; they have little chance of killing grownups.

Humans are the major predator of grownups in both circumstances. They are murdered for food, for concern for their safety, or as a result of habitat damage. Humans are the most dangerous to both alligators and crocodiles.

Interesting Facts

  • Alligators and crocodiles are among the most ancient and successful predators. Deinosuchus, or “dreadful crocodile,” was a notable prehistoric crocodile whose lone relic was a massive head discovered in Texas that reached more than 2 meters (6.6 feet). Researchers estimate that this massive predator was 15 meters (49 feet) long and huge enough to consume most dinosaurs at the time.
  • Crocodilians, like the American alligator, have straight pupils that expand widely in low light, making them formidable night predators. Their neck bag (gular) blocks water, allowing them to feed food both underwater and on the ground.
  • Crocodilians haven’t altered much since their prehistoric predecessors appeared, but that doesn’t imply they aren’t advanced compared to other animals. Crocodilians, unlike other surviving reptiles, have powerful four-chambered hearts 

Conservation and Ecology

Crocodilians are essential to the ecosystem’s general health. Nile crocodiles (Crocodylus niloticus), for instance, regulate the number of barbel catfish. If crocodiles are driven to extinction, the ravenous catfish might sweep out some other fish populations, which provide food for over 40 different bird species. Birds are also required because their excrement recycles nutrients back into circulation. 

Crocodiles are also scavengers, eating decaying carcasses found along rivers and streams, thereby cleaning the environment. Many habitats would suffer if crocodilians were extinct.

Summary of Main Differences Alligators vs Crocodiles

Crocodile

Crocodylia is the taxonomic order that includes alligators and crocodiles. According to the publication of Pathology of Wildlife and Zoo Animals, Crocodylia is divided into three primary families: Alligatoridae (alligators), Crocodylidea (crocodiles), and Gavialidae (gharials).

According to the New York Times, both Crocodylia have a similar evolutionary ancestor, but some 80 million years ago, during the Late Cretaceous period, Alligatoridae and Crocodylidae separated and proceeded on their own to embark on a new. Crocodiles and alligators have stayed largely similar in looks over evolutionary processes, but there are some striking changes that are simple to identify.

Alligators and Crocodiles – Facial Differences

Crocodiles and alligators appear identical at first glance, but closer scrutiny reveals that they have radically distinct snouts. Check at their jawline to tell the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. Because alligators have an overbite, the teeth on the bottom jaw are hidden by sockets in the upper jawbone. According to the Evolutionary biology of Crocodylians, the teeth on the bottom row of a crocodile’s mouth reside on the outside of the jaw and slide into gaps along the upper jaw.

The form of their heads is also a distinguishing feature. Crocodiles have a wider pointy, V-shaped snout, but alligators have a U-shaped round snout that is broad and shorter. There are occasional exceptions to this norm, such as the mugging crocodile (Crocodylus palustris), which has an alligator-like rounded head.

On the skulls of each of these reptiles are small black spots known as integumentary sensory organs (ISOs). Predators employ these sense organs to identify pressure fluctuations in the water generated by possible prey. As per the Journal of Experimental Biology, alligators have ISOs only on their heads and around their mouths, but crocodiles have ISOs on practically every scale on their bodies.

The differences between the two reptiles aren’t just superficial. Researchers discovered that, relative to crocodiles, alligators’ forelimbs have smaller humerus bones and their hindlimbs have smaller femurs in a study published in the journal Scientific Society Open Science in 2018.

Habits and Behavior (Crocodiles vs Alligators)

The habitat of alligators and crocodiles differs significantly. On their tongues, crocodiles have lingual salty receptors that allow them to eliminate excess salt from their bodies. Saltwater crocodiles (Crocodylus porosus) in Australia (which dwell in mangroves, marshes, and floodplains) have this capacity, allowing them to live in salty sea habitats. Despite alligators having the same salty gland, it is ineffective and inhibits the alligator’s ability to tolerate saltwater. As a result, alligators prefer watery areas like lakes and marshes.

This differential in salt tolerance might also explain why they are distributed differently over the world. Crocodiles may be found all over the world, including the Americas, Africa, Asia, and Australia, but alligators are mostly located in North and South America.

To sum up!

You should be able to distinguish between an alligator and a crocodile now. The most important thing to keep in mind is that alligators and crocodiles are two separate animals. Their jaw form, size, and color help to identify them.

On a much more serious note, recognizing any animal in the wild should be the very last thing that comes to mind compared to keeping a safe distance.

If you keep away from both creatures, they will usually not disturb you. Consider that you’re most vulnerable when you’re near the water’s edge or going through infected regions late at night.

Finally, we must decide who wins between an alligator and a crocodile. In the majority of the cases, based on the information, it’s the crocodile!

Alligator vs Crocodile FAQs

Crocodile vs Alligator: Who is stronger?

Crocodiles outnumber alligators not just in terms of biting force, but also in terms of perspective size. The largest confirmed saltwater crocodile specimen weighed over 2,000 pounds and measured over 23 feet in length. The largest confirmed American alligator specimen weighed over 1,000 pounds and measured 19 feet.

Alligator vs Crocodile: Which is more dangerous?

Crocodiles can grow to be larger than gators and have more dangerous bites. Crocodiles could win just because of their biting strength. The strongest alligators have biting pressures of 3,700 pounds per square inch, whereas the weakest have bite pressures of 2,900. Crocodiles triumph once more in terms of size.

Is a crocodile more aggressive than an alligator?

Crocodiles are frequently thought to be far more ferocious than alligators. While both creatures should be avoided at all costs, alligators in the Swamps are more docile than crocodiles, striking only when starving or provoked.

Do alligators eat each other?

“Adult alligators have been observed eating smaller alligators.” For your ease, the Department of Natural Resources offers this wonderful definition of alligators: Alligators are carnivores who feed on any available animal.

Are crocodiles capable of being friendly?

Crocodiles can’t possibly be nice. Many people mistake owning a croc for having a cat or a nice dog. This is incorrect; reptiles cannot be taught to love or be kind to their owners. The answer is simple: crocodiles are incapable of feeling these emotions, making social interaction with humans impossible.

What makes alligators fearful?

Alligators have an inherent dread of humans, and when confronted, they normally flee quickly. Back away carefully if you have a close contact with an alligator within a few yards. Wild alligators seldom pursue humans, yet they can sprint up to 35 miles per hour over short distances on land.

Why do alligators consume their own flesh?

This is standard alligator behavior, but it isn’t always for the same purpose. “Sometimes it’s territorial, but alligators are typically cannibalistic,” Morse explained. Males are more aggressive than females, particularly during mating season, which lasts from March to June.

Can you swim in the water with alligators?

Absolutely not! Allowing your pets or children to swim, drink, or play near alligator-infested waterways is not recommended. A splash might indicate the presence of a source of food in the water to an alligator. Swimming in regions where huge alligators are known to live is best avoided, but at the very least, never swim unaccompanied.

Do crocs and alligators live together?

They may be found on every continent. The Everglades in Florida is the only site on the planet where alligators and crocodiles coexist. The Australian saltwater crocodile is the world’s biggest crocodile, measuring up to 18 feet long.

Is the Nile crocodile bigger than an alligator?

The American alligator is substantially smaller than the Nile crocodile, reaching a maximum length of 15 feet (about five meters). That may not seem insignificant until you realize that the largest Nile crocodiles may be as long as a giraffe.

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