Alligator VS Crocodile: What are the Obvious Differences?

To many people, alligators and crocodiles are one and the same. They’ll see one in a zoo or on TV and see the same reptile. But that’s far from the truth. These two animals do share a striking similarity. It’s not surprising as their DNA is 93% identical.

Despite the close genetic association, the two animals are as different as night and day. There are even distinct markers to identify one over the other. We’re here to help you distinguish between an alligator vs crocodile.

All in the Family

Is an alligator a reptile? That’s one of the most common questions asked about alligators. Yes, they are reptiles. So are crocodiles. Both of them are vertebrates and are cold-blooded. They also have sales on their bodies. These provide them with protection against the elements and predators.

Taxonomy-wise, gators, and crocs belong to the Crocodilia order. This is then composed of three families. These are the Alligatoridae, the Crocodylidea, and the Gavialidae. Gators belong to the first one.

That’s About the Size

One easy way to distinguish an alligator from a crocodile is to look at the size. How big can alligators get? The American crocodile can reach anywhere from 15 to 17 feet in length. Their greatest size falls at around 20 feet. They can also weigh an astounding 800 to 1,000 pounds. Chinese alligators are much smaller though. They often grow to about five feet in length. They can reach seven feet at the most.

That’s peanuts compared to crocodiles. The saltwater crocodile is massive and can grow to 23 feet. Nile crocodiles are a bit smaller at 16 feet.

Color Me Surprised

Color is another surprising way to separate an alligator from a crocodile. Crocs are often black or brown. They also come in shades of green and gray. Their skin also has speckles or is sometimes mottled. This allows them to blend in well with the substrate and algae.

Crocodiles found in the US are often gray with a white or yellow belly. This contrast of colors is also called countershading. It helps them blend in the river or lake while hunting.

American alligators have darker hues. They’re dark green to almost black. This coloration is great camouflage. These animals live on riverbanks and along lakes. So their dark coloring helps them blend with the mud.

Living Large

There’s a big difference between where alligators and crocodiles live. Crocodiles appear to have become distributed all over the world. You can find them across Asia, Africa, and the Americas. Australia is also famous for its massive crocodiles.

Where do alligators live? You can find alligators in America. They spread throughout North and South America. China is the only other country that has alligators. That might not even be true for long. The Chinese alligator is on the endangered species list. Its numbers are at a critical low and they might disappear soon if nothing’s done about it.

Meat Heavy Diet

Alligators and crocodiles are apex predators. Their main source of nutrition is other animals.

What do alligators eat? 

Gators eat fish, birds, and other small mammals. They’re also known to eat sharks, rays, and snakes. Wild boars, black bears, and the Florida panther are also on their menu. Crocodiles have a more diverse palate though. They eat carrions, wildebeest, and even pet dogs. They can also bring down cattle. Their wider range of prey is due to their various locations.

Get to Know Florida’s Main Reptile

There’s so much to know about alligators. You can get a glimpse of its many mysteries when you go on a tour with Swamp Fever Airboat Adventures. We’re one of the top airboat operators in the Sunshine State. Our experienced and knowledgeable captain can show you our beautiful wildlife. You can see our diverse plants and wildlife. You can even watch alligators in their natural habitat. Why not book a tour today? You can sign up here or give us a ring at 352-643-0708.