Are Crocodiles and Alligators the Same?

Are Crocodiles and Alligators the Same

Are crocodiles and alligators the same? Continue reading to find the answers you are looking for! For many years crocodiles and alligators have been confused with one another. This is an honest mistake as they do look similar, especially from afar, which is exactly where you should be observing them.

They’re the largest reptiles on the planet, especially the saltwater crocodile. They aren’t amiable creatures but have been known to create playful bonds with other animals, such as otters and even humans. Which doesn’t mean you’d be able to tame one in the wild or try to introduce yourself. They’ve both been known to devour anything in their path, including people. They’re advantageous eaters, and anything that can fit down their gullet will surely make its way there soon. 

There are some indefinite differences, but it makes it easier to know beforehand what they are, or else it can be tricky to decipher. From habitat to life expectancy, these bulky reptiles are unique and barely changed in 85 million years only makes them even more special. Although they’re not the most well-mannered reptiles, their intelligence and wits, along with strength and size, give them a cozy spot high up on the food chain, which is well deserved. 

Are crocodiles and alligators the same – Crocodile Characteristics

Are Crocodiles and Alligators the Same - Healthier Pets Today

Crocodiles are one of the worlds oldest species on the planet and date back to around 85 million years ago. They lived alongside the dinosaurs and barely had any need to change. They’re the largest living reptile and reign in Asia, Africa, Australia, and the Americas. 

Despite their large size, they still have natural enemies. These include hippos, other crocodiles, and humans. Humans have been known to threaten the extinction of these creatures by destroying their habitats, hunting them, and filling their environments with pesticides and poison. Hippopotamus are territorial and protective mammals. They’re fierce rivals to crocodiles, and with their jaw strength, they can easily win a fight against a croc in one big chomp. Moving on to the crocodile itself, these large lizards have been known for cannibalistic tendencies and will often swallow smaller crocodiles whole, which ultimately thins out their already endangered species. 

They’re covered in armored skin that varies in shades of lighter green, with their young ones being more of a yellowish tinge. They have yellow to green stripes along their belly and small bony plates covering their upper half. The male saltwater crocodile is an enormous beast that can reach measures of 20ft (6 meters), and females are smaller, measuring about half the size of their male counterparts. At birth, their young are a mere 8 to 12 inches, and crocodiles are surprisingly good parents, unlike many other reptilian species. 

Their dietary preferences are broad, and they tend to eat whatever comes their way but because of their locations, here is what is to be expected inside a crocs stomach;

  • Insects
  • Fish
  • Frogs
  • Lizards
  • Snakes
  • Crustaceans 
  • Birds
  • Lions
  • Impala
  • Cattle
  • Smaller crocodiles
  • Wild boars
  • Tigers
  • Orangutans
  • Deer
  • Malayan tapirs
  • Wild and domesticated dogs
  • Hyenas 
  • Baby hippopotamus 
  • Water buffalo
  • Zebras 
  • Porcupines
  • Occasionally humans

As you can see, crocodiles are not picky eaters, and heaven helps whatever unsuspecting prey comes their way.

Crocodiles have a surprisingly long lifespan, with the oldest recorded male reaching 140 years of age. In the wild, they can live until 70 years, and if well looked after in captivity, they live for 100 years, outliving some of their caretakers.

Are crocodiles and alligators the same – Alligator Characteristics

Are Crocodiles and Alligators the Same - Healthier Pets Today

Alligators are smaller than crocodiles but don’t let this information fool you as they are still large vicious creatures. They lurk in the rivers, swamps, and lakes of the southeastern United States and China. They grow to about 6 or 12 feet, with the largest of the bunch reaching 19 feet, but this isn’t common. 

They are dark green or brown, with some of them even appearing black, especially when wet. These semi-aquatic reptiles have ridged bony armor with protruding bumps and crests around their eyes. Unlike their crocodile cousins, they have rounded snouts with up to 80 teeth perfectly fitting in their powerful jaws, whereas the crocodile’s bottom teeth are visible. This is one of the easiest ways to tell them apart besides their snouts, size, and color. 

In past years these alligators saw a decline in population, but thanks to the protections put in place to stop hunters and limited hunting seasons, they made a remarkable comeback. They tend to avoid humans but have been known to attack when threatened or hungry. Alligators generally eat whatever is around them, which can include but isn’t limited to;

  • Monkeys
  • Feral hog
  • Yellow mud turtle
  • Tree frogs
  • Birds
  • Fish
  • Amphibians 
  • Snails
  • Clams
  • Waterfowl 
  • Small alligators 
  • Wild grapes
  • Citrus fruits
  • Apples
  • Elderberry
  • Deer

The large male of this species tends to be a lone wolf, whereas juveniles and smaller alligators will travel in close groups. Crocs are known for spending most of their days in the sun to externally regulate their temperatures as they are cold-blooded and aren’t able to internally do it themselves.

Chinese alligators are smaller than the American alligator, and they are mainly found in the Yangtze River. They share many similar features, and the biggest difference is their size. The American alligator can weigh 1000 pounds in adulthood, whereas the Chinese alligator weighs 50 pounds.

The Main Differences Between Crocodiles and Alligators

Are crocodiles and alligators the same?

There are similar and different characteristics that crocodiles and alligators share. Knowing the difference can also be easy to distinguish by knowing where you are, as it’s rare for them to overlap in parts of the world, and the main place where they coexist is the Florida Everglades. Here are some key factors to keep in mind when telling the difference between these hefty reptiles;

  • Snout shape – alligators, have u-shaped snouts, and crocodiles are more v-shaped
  • Jaw – alligators’ upper jaw is wider, making it easier to hide their teeth, whereas crocodiles expose their overlapping chompers.
  • Size – alligators are large indeed, but the crocodile wins this round in both size and weight.
  • Place – alligators are located in China and the southeastern United States. Crocodiles are found in Asia, Africa, the Americas, and Australia.

Distant Relatives – Are crocodiles and alligators the same?

Crocodiles and alligators are not the same in terms of species and many other characteristics. They do share similarities, but these do not make them the same creature or identical.