Have you ever struggled to spot the difference between a crocodile vs alligator? Don’t worry; you are not alone. People frequently confuse large reptiles, and the terms are interchangeably used despite having significant differences. This article will clear up all your doubts about large predators.
1. The Origin Of The Wild Reptiles
The apex predators fall under the taxonomic order Crocodilia, which includes other species like gavials and caimans.
The origins of both the large predators were found in prehistoric times, which date back to 70 million years ago, in the era of dinosaurs. The fossil studies of the gigantic reptiles reveal that the species has not undergone many changes.
2. Crocodile vs Alligator: Scientific Classification
They belong to the kingdom of animals and are often referred to by common names such as crocodile crocs and alligator gators. Alligators and crocodiles belong to the Phylum Chordata and follow the ansisterial Order Crocodylia. They belong to the families Crocodylidae (crocodiles) and Alligatoridae (alligators) and have a total genus species of about 23 living species.
3. Crocodiles vs Alligators: What’s the Difference?
These enormous reptiles, which belong to the Crocodilia order, vary greatly in size, color, and snout form. When closely examined, the seemingly identical reptile species have differences in size, nature, habits, color, skin, and even behavior.
Once you know what to look for, it’s actually rather simple to distinguish between these reptiles at first glance.
Let’s explore some of the largest differences.
3.1 Crocodile vs Alligator: The Monochromatic Hue
Colour remains the most remarkable feature through which you can easily spot whether it’s a crocodile or an alligator.
In contrast to alligators, crocodiles frequently have lighter-colored skin. They can blend in with the sand better because of their pale color. The color of a crocodile is a pale tan to dark green.
Most crocodiles tend to have a dark and light pattern called countershading, which helps them blend in the water and helps hunt larger prey. On the other hand, alligator skin color is a dark blackish grey, whose tone depends on the quality of the water. Alligators found in tannic acid water will be darker in the shade compared to alligators in water rich in algae. Their ability to blend in with the water’s dark blackish shade helps them catch their prey.
3.2 Crocodile vs Alligator: Snout Distinction
The snout of the giant reptile is the most significant difference through which the majority of the population can identify whether it’s a gator or a crocodile. Gators have rounded and broad snouts, which help them crush their prey like turtles.
The u-shaped snout helps them to hide their teeth in their jaws, which helps the American alligator to hide in dark water. A pointed, narrow v-shaped snout differentiates a croc from an alligator. The Indian Mugger Crocodile is, however, an exception, which has a shorter and wider jaw.
3.3 Crocodile vs Alligator: The Wild Jaw
The giant predator’s powerful jaws to hunt its potential prey remain the most significant difference. Alligators have a wider top jaw and a smaller lower jaw. Due to this, the teeth in the bottom jaw fit into the small sockets in the upper jaw. Therefore, the large fourth tooth is completely hidden when the mouth is closed.
But in the case of crocodiles, the jaws have similar size and weight, and both the top and bottom teeth are interlocked. Due to this, the five visible bottom teeth are the fourth row when the mouth is closed.
3.4 Crocodile vs Alligator: Who Is Larger?
The enormous size of the reptiles makes people confused about whether it’s an alligators or a crocodile. The alligator crocodile’s size varies depending on the different species. Male alligators are larger in size compared to females. The average size of a full-grown adult male alligator can be about 8.2 feet (2.6 meters). The female alligator grows to a maximum length of 11.2 feet (3.4 meters).
The average weight of an adult male gator is about 11.2 feet (3.4 meters). The biggest alligator recorded was found on Marsh Island, Louisiana, and was reportedly 4.23 m (13 ft 11 in) and weighed 473 kg (1,043 lb), dating back to the late 19th century. The saltwater crocodile is heavier in both size and weight compared to the alligator. A fully grown male crocodile weighs up to 1,000–1,300 kg (2,200–2,900 lb) and is 6 m (20 ft), rarely exceeding 6.3 m (21 ft).
The female American crocodile is long, 10 feet (3 m) long, and weighs 330 pounds (150 kg). The saltwater crocodile, Crocodylus porosus, which can reach heights of more than 6 m, is the largest species of crocodilian (20 ft.)
When measured from snout to tail, Lolong was the largest crocodile ever. It got its place in the Guinness Book of World Records in the year 2012, measured at 6.17 m (20 ft 3 in), and weighing 1,075 kg (2,370 lb).
The power of the bite of the crocodile and alligator can be easily understood by their ability to consume turtles. The typical American alligator bites with 2,125 pounds of force per square inch (psi). However, the crocodile has the upper hand here with 3,700 pounds per square inch (psi), or 16,460 newtons, of bite force.
3.5 Crocodile vs Alligator: The Teeth
Alligators and crocodiles have strong teeth. They remain lifelong wild predators due to the bone of their ever-developing teeth. In comparing the alligator and crocodile, almost every tooth on the top and bottom jaws of a crocodile is visible when it closes its mouth, unlike the alligator, who has the ability to hide its lower teeth in the sockets of its upper jaw.
3.6 Crocodile vs Alligator: The Difference in Habitat
Crocodiles are found in freshwater and saltwater environments like rivers, marshes, swamps, lakes, reservoirs, etc. The reason why crocodile species can adapt to salty habits is the presence of a lingual gland which is present on their tongue.
These salt glands help to expel excessive salt. Even though alligators and crocodiles have this gland, it is insufficient for the alligator to survive in the salted environment. Therefore, the gators are limited to freshwater habitats like rivers, ponds, and swamps.
3.7 Crocodile vs Alligator: The Dewilling Location
The site of the living is what makes the fight between alligators and crocodiles a rare sight. There are two species of alligator: the American gator and the Chinese alligator. The southern United States is home to the American alligator. It is called the American alligator and spreads across Louisiana and Florida. The alligators found in China often referred to as Chinese, live predominantly in a small area of the Yangtze river near the Pacific Ocean in China.
On the other hand, American crocodiles are found across the whole continent except Antarctica. Seven prominent crocodile species live in South America, Africa, and northern Australia. Even though American crocs are widely spread across the globe and have a wider range of species, their population is very small, at about 2000, making them an endemic species.
Alligators are abundant in nature and have a population of 3 million. Because of the different locations in which they are found, there is only a small chance for two reptiles to be found together. The only known place they are globally is in southern Florida, where their territory overlaps.
3.8 Crocodile vs Alligator: Who Has a Bad Temper?
An alligator is an opportunist in nature, which means it will not attach until provoked. They are shyer in behavior and will probably hide when humans spot them. The zookeeper can move around freely while cleaning alligator pools. This is just a mere thought when it comes to crocodiles. Most people believe that saltwater crocodiles are more aggressive in nature, which is true for most apex predators. It will attack anything that it sees approaching.
American alligators are far less aggressive toward humans than crocodiles in their natural habitat and in zoos. But that shouldn’t encourage people to go near the wild beasts considering their fatal attacks. South Florida is an exceptional case. Over here, the American croc is shy in nature compared to the wild nature of the American alligator. So, people living in South Florida are most likely to encourage fatal attacks by American gators instead of crocodiles.
3.9 Crocodile vs Alligator: Temperature Variation
Sounds strange? Alligators and crocodiles are cold-blooded animals but have different heat tolerances. To survive, crocodiles require temperatures of between 85 and 93 degrees Fahrenheit. Because of this, crocodiles are generally located close to the equator. On the other hand, alligators prefer to stay near cold shores.
3.10Crocodile vs Alligator: The Beauty spots
If you take a close look near the jaw and nose in particular, you will notice a lot of black spots. These tiny spots are known as Dermal Pressure Receptors, or DPRs. DPRs play a major role in detecting their prayers.
Their dermal pressure receptors can detect the slightest pressure variation in water, which enables them to find and capture their prey. Crocodiles have these organs covering their entire bodies, whereas alligators don’t. It is a simple way to distinguish between alligator and crocodile skin.
4. Crocodile vs Alligator: The Ultimate Battle
By now, we almost have an idea of the weakness and strength of an alligator and a crocodile. If put into an affair fight, crocodile vs alligator, where both the dark green beasts have similar features like weight and age, it is most likely that a crocodile will win the fight; this can be confirmed by recalling the facts of the article.
When age is considered in a fight between alligators and crocodiles, the crocodile wins. The average American crocodile is 1.5 meters longer than a gator. A crocodile has a psi of 3700, compared to an alligator’s 2780.
Considering weight once again, alligators can weigh up to 1000 pounds, while the average American crocodile weighs only 200 pounds. In combat underwater, alligators tend to have the upper hand due to their ability to swim faster than crocodiles.
Though all facts are equally important, aggression plays the most important role when considering a fight, so it is most likely that a crocodile would be the winner.
This case would only be true if it were considered a fair fight. But nature isn’t always fair; the reptile’s victory varies greatly depending on species, age, weight, and length. For example, if there is a fight between an American alligator and a freshwater crocodile, the gator shows more aggression and is most likely to win the battle.
5. Frequently Asked Questions
5.1 Why is it difficult to differentiate between crocodile vs alligator?
Crocodiles and alligators belong to the same family. The reptilia classification includes alligators and crocodiles, which can exist on land and in water. The ability of lout creatures to hold their breath underwater for approximately an hour. They can see their prey because their eyes are raised above their heads. They can see well at night and have a vertical pupil.
The reptiles are excellent swimmers thanks to their strong tails. Skilled hunters swallow their prey whole rather than chewing it. Their integumentary sensory organs (ISOs), which are tiny spots, allow them to identify other animals based on the pressure exerted by other creatures.
5.2 Crocodile vs Alligator: Who Is More Dangerous to Humans?
If attacked, both gators and crocs can become threatening to human beings. Among alligators and crocodiles, crocs are known to be the most fatal to other animals, including humans. Alligators are timid in nature and will not attack unless provoked.
On the other hand, saltwater crocodiles will attack anything they see approaching them, even if unprovoked. The Nile crocodiles are known for their bad tempers. Due to this, Africa has the highest death ratio compared to other continents.
5.3 Which is the most dangerous species of a crocodile?
The mugger, or marsh crocodile, is a freshwater species that inhabit wetlands, lakes, slow-moving streams, and freshwater pools from Iran to the westernmost reaches of Southeast Asia. Because of its broad, flat nose, it can be easily identified.
When fully grown, muggers can reach heights of 13 to 16.5 feet (approximately 4 to 5 meters), making them one of the physically largest crocodile species. Although they frequently eat fish and reptiles, some have also eaten bigger animals like deer. CrocBITE reports that between 2008 and 2013, muggers attacked 110 people, with about one-third of such assaults ending in fatalities.
5.4 What Is The Biological Relationship Between These Two Species?
Crocodiles and alligators are rarely found together due to their separate distribution. The Florida Everglades is the only place where both are seen coexisting.
Unlike the other predators, who consistently fight head-on for food and territory, the crocs and gators don’t get into conflicts. Different habitats could be the cause of the variation.
5.5 What is the importance of an alligator in the food chain?
The American alligator is a crucial Southeast keystone species. Alligators use their tails to build burrows in the mud for nesting and to stay warm. Other species use the hole left behind when an alligator leaves a burrow for breeding and drinking because it fills with fresh water. Numerous other species would be negatively impacted if alligators were removed from their natural habitat.
Crocodile vs Alligator: Fun Facts
1)Crocodiles sleep with their mouths open. This is known as “mouth gaping.” Crocodiles do not sweat, so they lie with their mouths open to release heat.
2)The most fascinating fact about crocodiles is their breathing patterns. And like other reptiles whose gender is decided by DNA, the gender of the crocodile is decided by temperature. Anything less than 32 degrees Fahrenheit is considered a female, and anything above that is a male.
3) Most of us have heard the term “crocodile tears,” which refers to hypocritical sorrow, but in technical terms, those tears are not considered crying. This happens when crocodiles eat too much food and dry their eyes. The lacrimal gland produces tears to lubricate the eyes.
4) Crocodilians consume stone. Yes, what you just heard is true. According to scientists, alligators, crocodiles, and other crocodylians frequently eat rocks, whether accidentally while chasing live prey or on purpose to obtain minerals, get rid of parasites, or aid in digestion challenging foods—a practice also engaged in by some birds. According to a recent study in Integrative Organismal Biology, alligators fill their bellies with small rocks to stay underwater for longer periods. Science magazine reported that alligators’ dive times increased by an average of 88 percent, lasting up to 35 minutes when they consumed stones weighing just 2.5 percent of their body weight.
5)Crocodiles are at the top of the food chain. This was approximately 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era.
6) Compared to the lion or tiger, the crocodile bite is three times stronger and ten times stronger compared to the greatest wild shark.
7) Crocodiles are the closest living species to birds and have a four-chambered heart like other mammals when on the ground, but once they go underwater, it behaves like a three-chambered organ.
8) Being carnivores, crocodiles typically only consume meat. A recent study showed they also like the occasional taste of fruit. The 2013 study concluded that “there is little doubt that on occasion, fruit is deliberately consumed, often in large quantities,” along with their normal meat-heavy diets of mammals, birds, and fish. 1