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What is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?

Last Reviewed and Updated on June 10, 2022

Alligators and crocodiles are both members of the order Crocodylia and are closely related. There are many similarities between the two but what is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? Could you tell them apart if you would encounter them in the wild?

There are quite a few ways to tell them apart, read on, and you will never again confuse the two.

Alligators vs Crocodiles

These two species have many similarities, and before you know what to look for, it is easy to confuse them. There are, however, some significant differences between the two, and once you learn them, you won’t have any issues telling them apart.

We’ve also got this list of interesting alligator facts for you to check.

The Shape of Their Snout

The most notable difference is that alligators have much broader U-shaped snouts while crocodiles have narrower, V shape snouts.

While at first glance they may all look the same, once you start noticing the quite distinct U and V shapes you won’t be mistaking one species for the other.

Check their Teeth

While you are observing their snout, also check their teeth as another visual difference is the appearance of their teeth when they have their mouth shut. You won’t see an alligator’s bottom teeth (only the teeth from the upper jaw) when it has its mouth shut, but you will see crocodile’s back teeth.

Where can Each Species be Found?

Alligators are found in North America and China, and crocodiles are a little more common and are found in Africa, Australia, both the Americas and Asia. So by geography alone, you might be able to determine if you are facing a crocodile or an alligator.

Saltwater or Freshwater?

Crocodiles can be found both in freshwater and saltwater, while alligators are freshwater animals (they will sometimes be found in brackish water).

Color of their skin

Alligators have a darker skin color, with a dark gray, almost blackish appearance. Crocodiles are lighter, with colors ranging from green to brown.

What are some other differences between crocodiles and alligators?

When most people think of alligators and crocodiles, they tend to think of them as being very similar animals. After all, they are both large reptiles that live in water and have long, sharp teeth.

But you now know some of the key differences for telling them apart. There are quite a few more differences between these two animals, that might not be so easily spotted, at least not without having these two species side by side.

One Swims Faster than the Other

Alligators are better and faster swimmers than crocodiles. This is because alligators have more webbed back feet. This gives alligators more propulsion when swimming and helps them to move through the water more quickly. Both species are more agile in water than they are on land.

Crocodiles are More Agressive

Another difference between alligators and crocodiles, and this one you should keep in mind, is that crocodiles tend to be more aggressive than alligators are. Alligators are more likely to flee from a confrontation than a crocodile is. Best to avoid both though.

The Difference in Size

Alligators tend to be smaller than crocodiles.


Crocodiles live longer on average than alligators do.

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