Alligators vs. Crocodiles – The Difference Between

How can you tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles?

There are many animals in the world that look somewhat alike and are confused with each other. Two animals that do share similar features are alligators and crocodiles and unless you know the different characteristics of each one, it would be very easy to get them mixed up. Although they do look very similar there are obvious ways to distinguish between them.

Alligators belong to the same scientific family as crocodiles, which is perhaps why people do get confused when trying to differentiate between them. The word alligator is actually from the Spanish language and means “lizard”.  Alligators are perhaps the oldest living fossils on the planet. Unlike other animals that evolved over the ages, alligators have changed very little in the 200 million years they have been on this earth.

There are also different species of alligators, with the two best known being the American alligator and the Chinese alligator. The alligators found in China are smaller than those found in the United States. They grow to between 5 and 7 feet in length and the body is fully armored. Originally they could be found throughout all of China, but today they are a protected species with only about 200 of them living in their habitat along the Yangtze River. American alligators can grow up to 15 feet in length and can weigh between 800 to 1000 pounds. They can be found in the southern and southeastern parts of the US.  Alligators live in fresh water, such as lakes and ponds, but they are also found in brackish waters.


The word crocodile comes from the Ancient Greek language and means “lizard”. They travel very fast, even when they are out of the water. They have scales on their bodies and their jaws are the strongest of any animal species. There are different types of crocodiles and there is a wide range in their sizes. The smallest is the dwarf crocodile, which measures only about 3 feet in length. The largest is the saltwater crocodile, which can grow to lengths of up to 20 feet. They can be found all over the world, but usually only in the tropical regions.

How alligators and crocodiles are different

The physical structure of alligators and crocodiles is the most obvious difference between the two. The snout is one of these obvious differences. The snout of the crocodile is pointed and V-shaped, making it easier for these animals to catch their main food – fish. Alligators have U-shaped snouts that are well-suited for crushing a wide variety of food sources.  Crocodiles are black in color, but alligators tend to be light olive.


  1. Both alligators and crocodiles are reptiles.
  2. Alligators live primarily in freshwater environments, but crocodiles can live in salt water as well as freshwater environments.
  3. Alligators are light olive in color, but crocodiles are black.
  4. Alligators have a U-shaped snout and crocodiles have a pointed and v-shaped snout.


Both alligators and crocodiles are very dangerous animals.

Which animal is more dangerous?

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