Gators or Crocodiles

One thing I learned in my exploring around the Everglades is that Alligators and Crocodiles are not the same creatures. Oh they may look a lot alike but there are differences.

Both animals are reptiles and they do look a lot alike but with the exception of Florida they live in entirely different areas of the world. They also prefer different kinds of water but aside from habitat the easiest way to tell the difference is the snout.

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The snout, or mouth and nose, looks very different. A crocodile snout is long, narrow and V-Shaped while those of the alligator as wider and u shaped. If you get a chance to look at the 2 species side by side the difference is not subtle at all. In fact I think once you compare the 2 snouts you’ll be unlikely to ever mix them up again.

The snouts are an indication of the different diets these beasts follow. The wide snout of the alligator gives it more crushing power which it need to devour its favorite meal of turtle. Crocodiles on the other hand eat mainly fish and small mammals so they don’t need that big chop to break through a shell. Thier narrower snout lets them strike quickly to snag the small creatures that make up their lunch.

One of the things that I find most interesting is their jaw. When an alligator closes its mouth the lower teeth are not as visible as in the crocodile. Because the alligator has that wide snout its upper jaw covers the lower jaw so the teeth in the lower jaw fit snuggly inside. A dentist’s dream.

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But the crocodile, now that’s the orthodontist’s dream patient. Braces for life. The upper and lower jaws of the crocodile are basically the same width so when it closes those jaws the bottom teeth interlock with the upper ones. My what big teeth you have!

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The last difference I will touch on is color. The typical crocodile tends to be an olive , brown hue. Alligators are much darker, almost black, especially when wet. Alligators that have been sunning and are dry may look more gray than black but all of the crocodiles I’ve seen have definitely tended more toward the brown. (Not that I’m an expert by any stretch)

Of course if you happen to run into one of these animals in the wild, on a walk, or in your pool, I wouldn’t stand around trying to figure out which one it was. I’d make tracks to a safe distance and call the experts. Crocodiles can run up to 10+ miles per hour for short distances. Alligators not so fast but they can spin around and jump really fast because that’s a skill they need to ambush their prey. So if you run across one..call the Gator Boys or 911 and don’t touch! 🙂

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