Alligators and crocodiles are often confused with one another. They have similar appearances and behaviors but typically live in different environments.
Alligators and crocodiles only coexist in one small part of the world, the Florida Everglades. But do they get along? Kind of.
When alligators and crocodiles live in the same area, they typically avoid each other unless their young are threatened.
The Main Differences Between Alligators And Crocodiles
Alligators and crocodiles might look alike at first glance, but they are more different than they are alike.
Environment and Habitat
Alligators and crocodiles live in completely different environments, apart from one exception. Crocodiles, for example, can live in both saltwater and freshwater conditions. However, alligators can only live in freshwater.
Crocodiles are native to Africa, Asia, and Australia, while alligators are found all across the Americas. However, the Chinese alligator is native to some parts of China. It’s also nicknamed the muddy dragon.
Crocodiles and alligators don’t look that alike at all. Crocodiles have grayish-green tough skin and a narrow, tapered, triangular snout. Its teeth are also very long and the fourth tooth is visible.
Alligators on the other hand have a long, rounded snout that slightly faces upward and large nostrils at the end. Young alligators also have yellow stripes along their bodies, helping them camouflage.
Alligators also have a fourth tooth on both sides of their jaws that fits perfectly into an internal socket in the upper jaw. It stays hidden while its mouth is closed.
Alligators and crocodiles are both giant predators, but crocodiles are typically larger. Most crocodiles are at least 1 meter (3 feet) longer than alligators.
For example, saltwater crocodiles are typically 17 feet long and weigh 1,000 pounds. However, crocodiles longer than 23 feet aren’t uncommon.
Unlike crocodiles, alligators reach 8.2 to 11.2 feet long. However, longer alligators have been caught before. The longest alligator ever caught in the world was 19 feet and 3 inches long.
Similarities Between Alligators And Crocodiles
Alligators and crocodiles, despite their differences, still share some similarities.
Both alligators and crocodiles are strong. They have large tails and massive teeth.
Alligators and crocodiles strike their prey with their large tails. It also helps them swim faster.
These two also have long claws. They are sneaky hunters that lunge at their prey.
Both alligators and crocodiles aren’t picky eaters. In fact, they share a lot of the same diet. Both animals only need to eat once a week to survive and digest their food before hunting for more.
Alligators hunt for large fish, birds, and mammals like raccoons and deer. They are opportunistic hunters that wait to pounce out of the water.
Crocodiles also consume insects, fish, lizards, and small mammals. However, since some live in saltwater, the species of fish and insects vary.
There is a lot of shared history between crocodiles and alligators. These two large aquatic reptiles share the same scientific order. Alligators and crocodiles are members of the Crocodylia but have different families.
Crocodiles are part of the Crocodylidae family; alligators, meanwhile, are from the Alligatordae family. However, they once shared a common ancestor back in the Cretaceous about 95 million years ago.
Alligators and crocodiles are very old. They existed long before humans. Alligators are incredibly old and research continues to age these creatures.
Scientists believe alligators are at least 6 to 8 million years old as it has remained virtually unchanged.
Crocodiles are also very old. Its first ancestor appeared on earth about 200 million years ago. The Amphicotylus milesi has a similar skull to its later relatives who could swallow a seal without chewing.
To show just how old crocodiles are, they are often called living fossils.
Do Alligators And Crocodiles Fight?
A fight between an alligator and a crocodile sounds exciting but rarely do these two animals meet in the wild, even in the Florida Everglades, where they share the same environment.
Typically, alligators and crocodiles ignore each other.
They are both opportunistic hunters that don’t attack prey larger than themselves. The only time an alligator and a crocodile will fight is if they feel threatened.
While rare, when alligators and crocodiles fight, usually crocodiles leave victorious. These giants are larger and faster than alligators.
Crocodiles can reach speeds of up to 15 and 18 mph on land, and they are faster in the water.
Alligators are quick, but only in short bursts. They tire easily, but can consistently run 11 mph. However, when hunting, they sprint in short bursts up to 35 mph.
While alligators faster in the water, crocodiles are even faster and have the upper hand.
Alligators have more teeth though, about 80, while crocodiles only have 60 teeth. Still, because of their sheer size, a crocodile’s bite force is about 3,700 psi, compared to an alligator’s 2,500 psi.
Are Crocodiles Or Alligators More Dangerous?
Crocodiles are more dangerous than alligators. They are more aggressive, especially on the Nile River.
Interestingly, in the everglades, crocodiles are considered more docile than alligators. However, you should avoid both of these large reptiles in the wild as much as possible.
On average, there are about 1,000 fatal crocodile attacks every year. However, this number could be higher since not all attacks are reported, especially in rural areas.
Fatal alligator attacks are a lot lower. While there isn’t a concrete number, fatal injuries are rare. Humans aren’t a big part of the alligator’s diet.
The state of Florida sees the most alligator attacks every year, typically ranging from 3 to 10 unprovoked attacks. However, they are rarely fatal.
Still, you should always be aware of your surroundings when swimming in a lake or body of water in southern states in the U.S.
Overall, crocodiles and alligators coexist in one part of the world. They rarely attack each other and crocodiles in the everglades are more docile.
However, you should never try to touch or swim with an alligator or crocodile as they are both dangerous and aggressive reptiles.