Alligators and crocodiles are amongst some of the oldest creatures on the planet. In fact their ancestors were around during the during of the dinosaurs. Evolved into highly specialised and successful predators, they live in similar environments, eat similar-ish prey, and let's face it, crocodiles, alligators - they both look the same. Beady eyes, scary teeth and loads of warty skin - what else do you need to know? Well, they must be different otherwise they wouldn't have different names, and with just a closer look, and a little help from a suitable expert, you can see for yourself just how different they truly are.
So, what is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
1. The first difference between a crocodile and an alligator is that they are from different families. While both are grouped within the crocodilian family, crocodiles are from the crocodylidae family, while alligators and caimans are from the alligatoridae family.
2. In terms of physical differences the easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that a crocodile has a very long, narrow, V-shaped snout, while the alligator's snout is wider and U-shaped. Because of the wide snout of the alligator it packs more crushing power to eat prey like turtles that constitute part of its diet. The narrow crocodile snout, although still very powerful, is not really suited for prey like turtles but is very versatile for fish and mammals.
3. Another important difference between the crocodile and the alligator is that the crocodile's upper and lower jaws are nearly the same width, so the teeth are exposed all along the jawline in an interlocking pattern - even when the mouth is closed. They also have an enormous 4th tooth on the lower jaw that is accommodated by depressions in the upper jaw just behind the nostrils.
An alligator, on the other hand, has a wider upper jaw, so when its mouth is closed the teeth in the lower jaw fit into sockets of the upper jaw, hidden from view. Only the teeth of the upper jaw are exposed along the lower jaw line. Even the enormous 4th tooth on the bottom jaw, which is exposed in a crocodile, is hidden in the alligator.
Some simple facts
2. Crocodiles are generally more aggressive than alligators, with saltwater crocodiles arguably being the most aggressive.
3. Alligators tend to have a darker appearance than crocodiles.
4. Crocodiles in the wild are found throughout the tropics in Africa, Asia, the Americas and Australia while alligators are only found in the US and China.
5. Crocodiles can tolerate salt-water better than Alligators as they have specialized salt glands for filtering out salt. These are present but non-functioning in alligators which is why they strongly favour freshwater.
For related articles click onto the following links:
Crocodile and alligator differences
THE MALAYAN LEAF FROG - Megophrys nasuta
THE SALTWATER CROCODILE
THE TYRANNOSAURUS REX
WHAT DO ALLIGATORS EAT?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A FROG AND A TOAD?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MILLIPEDE AND A CENTIPEDE?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A MOTH AND A BUTTERFLY?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A PLANT CELL AND AN ANIMAL CELL?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A RAT AND A MOUSE?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A TORTOISE AND A TURTLE?
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A ZEBRA AND A HORSE?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST REPTILE?