What is the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?
Unravelling the mysteries of the crocodylia
1) Crocodiles are more TEETHY. In particular their fourth tooth from the lower jaw points up [scarily] whereas alligators’ do not. The reason for crocs’ teethy look is because their upper and lower jaws are the same size; in contrast, the alligator’s upper jaw is wider. This means that alligators’ teeth (generally) fall neatly from above. These are typical teethy crocodiles:
Compare this to the tidy alligator jaw:
2) Crocodiles generally have a pointier snout. In other words, they have a huge ‘V’ shape (if you’re looking down from above). This longer pointier shape is weaker than the alligator’s and more adapted to eating fish rather than meaty mammals or other beasts. Basically, if you had to confront one or the other, you might have more luck surviving a crocodile attack. However, to complicate matters, alligators are far less likely to attack humans than crocodiles.
3) Salt glands. Salt glands? Yes, salt glands. Alligators, being of older ancestry, lack them, whereas crocodiles have salt glands which allow them to excrete salt water. This brings us on to the next point.
4) Alligators are generally found in fresh water. Swamps, lakes and slow moving streams. Their lack of salt glands mean the sea is unbearable for them. Conversely, it is possible to find certain types of crocodile in the sea.
5) Crocodiles are found all over the world. Alligators are found predominantly in China and the United States.
1) Alligators and crocodiles are part of a big family of similar looking reptiles called ‘crocodilians’. Therefore, next time you see an alligator-crocodile-type-thing it’s more correct to say, ‘oh look, there’s a crocodilian’.
2) There are 23 types of crocodilian.
3) A typical crocodilian dive under water lasts between 10 – 20 minutes. If in dire straits, they can last for a few hours.
4) Crocodilians carry their babies in their mouths.
5) Crocodilians are older than dinosaurs. But are you surprised? Look at them. They shiver my timbers with an ancient horror.
6) Some crocodilians can last 2/3 years without eating. Phoaw.
7) An alligator’s brain weighs half a tablespoon.
8) You will only find crocodiles AND alligators together, living in the same place, in Southern Florida.
9) There are such things as albino crocodilians. Check out this albino alligator: