“See ya later, alligator!” “In a while, crocodile!”
If you thought the gators swimming in Florida neighborhood pools were big, then you must not know about Shieldcroc. Living roughly 93 million to 99 million years ago, it has been called the “Father of all Crocs.” In its heyday, Shieldcroc measured over thirty feet long with a head that was nearly six feet wide. Yikes!
The crocodiles and alligators of today, which likely descended from Shieldcroc and other early Crocodilians, might not be as big, but they continue to be formidable predators in the food chain.
Both alligators and crocodiles share many similarities, but despite having some common relatives, it is important to note that they are not the same.
So, what is the difference between alligators and crocodiles? Let’s find out!
What Is the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles?
The Teeth and Snout
Both crocodiles and alligators have large, knife-like serrated teeth and long snouts. A big giveaway of whether you’re looking at a crocodile versus an alligator is the snout shape.
Alligators tend to have wide, U-shaped snouts. When their jaws are closed, you typically cannot see their teeth. Crocodiles, on the other hand, have a skinny, V-shaped snout and their teeth show when their mouth is closed.
Do you spot a big, toothy grin? You’re looking at a crocodile. Now run! (And do so in a zigzag pattern.)
Though Alligators can survive for some time in salt water, they tend to occupy freshwater spots, like swamps, lakes, and marshes. Crocodiles, conversely, have salt glands on their tongues that allow them to live in saltwater environments.
These different preferred habitats likely explain why crocodiles can be found pretty much everywhere in the world. Alligators are most only found in the southern United States and parts of China.
Alligators and crocodiles are cold-blooded, so both tend to prefer warm climates. Because of this, you are not likely to find either in cold-weather areas.
Size, Color, and Demeanor
There is no question that alligators can get quite big. However, in general, gators are typically smaller and less aggressive than crocodiles.
On average, crocodiles tend to be a few feet longer than alligators. A typical saltwater crocodiles is about 17 feet long and weighs roughly 1,000 pounds. (If you don’t spook easily, check out the biggest crocodiles ever recorded!)
Crocodiles are also generally lighter in color than alligators. While crocodiles are typically more of a grayish olive or brown color, alligators tend to appear dark green or black.
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Mark Heald is an Associate Product Manager and Sporcle Admin. He enjoys spending time with his family, traveling, and bemoaning the fact the Sonics left Seattle.