How crocodiles differ from alligators

Surely each of us wondered how the crocodile differs from the alligator, because to the average person they seem to be pretty much the same. But if you know some of the features of each of them, it will not be difficult for you to distinguish between these sharp-toothed predators.

The 23 different species of these reptiles are classified into three families: alligator, crocodile, and gavial. Over 83 million years of existence, evolution has created ideal killing machines out of these creatures. Spending most of their time in the water, some of them can swim at speeds up to 30 km / h and run up to 20 km / h on land and hold their breath underwater for 60 minutes. Their vision allows reptiles to see perfectly both during the day and at night, both underwater and above it. And don't be fooled by the seeming absence of ears, these creatures' hearing is so keen that they can hear the sounds made by their offspring inside the egg.

Crocodile jaws can create more pressure than the jaws of any other animal and, like sharks, they never remain without teeth. As the old ones fall out, new ones immediately grow in their place. It should be noted that the teeth of reptiles are not intended for chewing or cutting, but only for grabbing, therefore predators simply tear their prey, swallowing then in large chunks.

Since gavials are difficult to confuse with crocodiles and alligators (this species has a characteristic narrow jaw), let's see the main differences between alligators and crocodiles.

Face shape

So let's start with the most obvious difference. Typically, crocodiles have a longer, V-shaped snout, while alligators have a short, U-shaped snout. The wide mouth of the alligator allows it to more effectively deal with the hard shells of turtles, which make up a significant part of its diet. Crocodile jaws may not be as strong as alligators, but the pointed muzzle is ideal for the wide range of prey common to this predator. However, there is an exception to the rule - the Indian swamp crocodile. It has a short, wide muzzle like an alligator, but by all other characteristics, it is a typical crocodile.

Teeth position and shape

Another notable difference between reptiles is the visibility of the teeth of the lower jaw when the mouth of the animal is closed. The upper jaw of an alligator is wider than the lower one and has small nests on the inside, due to which it completely covers the teeth when the mouth is closed. In a crocodile, the jaws are approximately the same width and the upper teeth close with the lower ones, and the large fourth tooth on the lower jaw always peeks out of the mouth when the crocodile closes it.

In addition, if you look closely, you can see that the alligator's teeth are more rounded, in contrast to the sharp crocodile ones.

Pressure receptors

If you look at the heads of the crocodile and alligator, especially in the area of ​​the nose and jaws, you can see many tiny black specks that look like unshaven stubble. These points are called pressure receptors, which are capable of detecting small changes in pressure in the water, allowing predators to identify and capture their prey. Crocodiles differ from alligators by the fact that a crocodile, unlike an alligator, these organs cover not only the head, but the entire body, and this helps to easily distinguish the skin of two reptiles.


Alligators are not adapted to life in salt water, which is why they prefer exclusively fresh water. Thanks to the salt glands in their tongues, crocodiles are able to remove excess salt from the body, so they can live in salty water (some species even in the sea). The distribution of alligators around the world is also more limited compared to crocodiles. They are found only in America and India, while crocodiles have a wider range.

Skin tone

It's simple - the skin of an adult alligator, as a rule, has a dark, grayish-black color, and the skin of a crocodile is much lighter, with a brown tint. This is due to the peculiarities of the habitat of each of them. Alligators live in the dark waters of swamps and slow-moving rivers, where their darker skin color helps them camouflage themselves better.

And finally, recent studies show that 70% of female alligators remain faithful to their mate for many years and mate with the same male year after year. The same cannot be said about crocodiles, however, about male alligators too. Now you know how crocodiles differ from alligators and you will never confuse them.