Alligator vs. Crocodile


Crocodiles have long and pointed, V-shaped snouts while alligators have rounded, U-shaped snouts. Other differences include the shape of their jaws and hind legs. Their behavior is also starkly different, with crocs being more aggressive than gators.

Comparison chart




Coloration Blackish/grey Olive green/brown
Snout Wider U-shaped snout Longer V-shaped snout
Aggressiveness Less aggressive More aggressive
Preferred Water Freshwater Brackish or Saltwater
Lingual Salt Glands Non-functioning Functioning
Habitat Southern U.S. and China Africa, Australia, and America
Length of adult 4.3 meters 5.8 meters
Nesting Lay eggs in mounds of vegetation surrounding freshwater Lay their eggs in mud or sand
Location of dermal pressure receptors Limited to jaws Over most of the body
Teeth of the lower jaw Hidden(cannot be seen when jaw is closed) Visible (teeth of lower jaw can be seen when jaw is closed)

Contents: Alligator vs Crocodile

Differences in Physical characteristics


Alligators have a wide "U"-shaped, rounded snout (like a shovel), whereas crocodiles tend to have longer and more pointed "V"-shaped noses.


An alligator (left) with a rounded U-shaped snout and a crocodile (right) with a V-shaped snout
An alligator (left) with a rounded U-shaped snout and a crocodile (right) with a V-shaped snout

In alligators, the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw and completely overlaps it. Therefore, the teeth in the lower jaw are almost completely hidden when the mouth closes, fitting neatly into small depressions or sockets in the upper jaw. This is called an "overbite". The large fourth tooth on each side of the alligator’s lower jaw fits into a socket in the upper jaw.

However, in crocodiles, the upper jaw and lower jaw are approximately the same width, and so teeth in the lower jaw fit along the margin of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. Therefore, the upper teeth interlock (and "interdigitate") with the lower teeth when the mouth shuts. The large fourth tooth on each side of the crocodile's lower jaw projects outside the snout when the mouth is closed.

Hind legs

Crocodiles have a jagged fringe on their hind legs and feet; alligators do not. Alligator have webbed feet; crocodiles do not.


The American alligator is the larger of the two species of alligator and typically ranges from 6-12 ft but can grow up to 19 ft. The Chinese alligator is smaller, typically about 5 ft with a maximum length of about 7 ft.

Crocodiles are the largest and heaviest of present-day reptiles. The Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) of Africa and the estuarine (or saltwater) crocodile (C. porosus) of Australia are the largest species; they can grow up to 20 ft in length and weigh over 1,000 kg (about 2,200 pounds). The smallest species, the smooth-fronted caiman (Paleosuchus) and the dwarf crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis), reach about 6 feet in length as adults.

Differences in behavior

Differences in behavior are also apparent. Most people regard crocodiles as more aggressive than alligators, and this is true of some species. When cleaning alligator pools, some zookeepers can tread on alligators without eliciting a response, though crocodiles almost invariably react aggressively.


Alligators prefer freshwater while crocodiles can better tolerate brackish water because they have functioning salt glands on their tongue. This allows crocodiles to easily filter out salt. While alligators also have these structures, they appear to have lost the ability to use them for excreting significant amounts of salt and hence preferring to stay in freshwater areas.

More Pictures



South America's largest crocodile, the fierce but reclusive Orinoco crocodile — is on the verge of extinction. This New York Times article and the following video shine a light on conservation efforts for this species:


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Comments: Alligator vs Crocodile

Anonymous comments (5)

November 28, 2008, 10:54am

If you want to get more information on and to see an Alligator and Crocodile side by side in a picture go to

— 205.✗.✗.139

March 6, 2013, 9:26pm

Another difference is that alligators are born with an extra toe than crocidiles but during their adolesence, they shed off the extra toe.

— 50.✗.✗.182

May 12, 2014, 6:37pm

The American crocodile does live in parts of Florida but its more common in Central America

— 89.✗.✗.133

February 11, 2010, 2:45pm

they seem pretty alike but they are totally different from each other.

— 204.✗.✗.6

May 10, 2014, 10:38pm

Interesting, eye-opening, and informative article.

— 93.✗.✗.114


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