You may have seen pictures or videos of alligators and crocodiles, and perhaps you thought they were the same type of animal. The truth is, though they are both crocodilian reptiles, they have many differences. What are the differences, you may ask? Which one is bigger, stronger, more dangerous? In a fight of alligator vs. crocodile, who would win? Keep reading! In this article, we’ll answer all of these questions and more!
What You'll Learn Today
- What are the Differences Between Alligators and Crocodiles?
- Alligator or Crocodile: Which is Bigger?
- Alligator or Crocodile: Which is More Dangerous?
- How Strong is an Alligator’s Bite?
- Alligator Vs. Crocodile: Who Would Win?
What are the Differences Between Alligators and Crocodiles?
Before discussing which of these ancient reptiles would win in a head to head fight, we should start by discussing their differences. Crocodiles and alligators tend to look pretty similar, but they actually have quite a few differences if you know what to look for.
Let’s take a closer look at some of those differences.
The most notable difference between alligators and crocodiles is the shape of the snout. If you compare these two animals side by side, you will notice a definite difference between a crocodile’s snout and an alligator’s snout.
According to Britannica, alligators have wide, flat, rounded snouts, generally shaped like a U if you’re looking down from above. Crocodiles, on the other hand, have more narrow, V-shaped snouts.
The shape of the jawline is also different. This difference is most notable when their mouths are shut.
Alligators have a simple jawline that only shows their top teeth when their mouths are closed. Crocodiles have a more curved jawline that exposes both their top and bottom teeth when their mouths are closed.
Alligators have a much darker coloring than crocodiles. They are dark green to nearly black in color, and this coloring is uniform all over the gator’s body.
Crocodiles, meanwhile, are usually much lighter in color. Depending on species, they may be an olive green to a light brownish gray, and they often have a more speckled pattern on their tails.
Both alligators and crocodiles tend to live in warm tropical and subtropical environments, but alligators can handle the cold a little better than crocodiles can.
In the United States, alligators live as far north as North Carolina, while crocodiles are only found in extreme southern parts of Florida. During periods of cold, alligators will brumate, or hibernate, which allows them to survive even when temperatures dip below freezing.
Number of species
There are 14 species of crocodile and only 2 species of alligator.
Alligators are only found in parts North and South America as well as in eastern China. Crocodiles are more widespread; they can be found in southern North America as well as throughout South America, Australia, Africa, and Asia.
Both alligators and crocodiles have been around for millions of years, but crocodiles are older than alligators.
Crocodiles can be traced back in history as far as 70 million years, while alligators made their first appearance about 55 to 65 million years ago.
Check out this video to get a visual on some of the differences between alligators and crocodiles.
Alligator or Crocodile: Which is Bigger?
Crocodiles are generally bigger than alligators. This isn’t necessarily true across the board, as some large American alligators may grow larger than some smaller crocodile species.
Saltwater crocodiles are the largest species of crocodile; they can grow up to 20 feet long in the wild. Other species of crocodile can measure anywhere from 9 to 15 feet long, while most alligators average between 8 and 12 feet long (the smaller Chinese alligator only grows to about 5 feet long).
Both alligators and crocodiles can grow much larger when kept in captivity.
Alligator or Crocodile: Which is More Dangerous?
Crocodiles have a more powerful bite than alligators, and they are generally larger and more aggressive. Alligators don’t look for a fight as much as crocodiles seem to do; alligators try to avoid conflict with humans unless they are defending their nest and only hunt humans when they are close to starving to death.
Crocodiles are more dangerous because they tend to attack humans a little more readily than alligators do. While alligators will usually try to run away first, crocodiles will not hesitate to defend themselves if they feel threatened.
Both crocodiles and alligators will hiss when you are too close. If you ever hear an alligator or crocodile hissing, consider this your warning and leave the area immediately.
Read also: Alligator Vs. Hippo: Who Would Win?
How Strong is an Alligator’s Bite?
An alligator has a powerful bite, no question about it. But generally, it isn’t quite as powerful as the bite of a crocodile.
The difference in bite strength is largely because of the difference in their teeth. Crocodiles have extremely sharp teeth that are meant for tearing, while alligators have more cone-shaped teeth that are better suited for crushing.
A saltwater crocodile’s bite can be as powerful 3,700 pounds per square inch, and even smaller crocodiles can produce bites that are nearly as strong. An alligator’s bites, by comparison, are usually about 2,500 to 2,900 pounds per square inch.
Make no mistake, these are both incredibly strong and powerful bites. By comparison, lions have a bite force of about 1,000 pounds per square inch.
Alligator Vs. Crocodile: Who Would Win?
Now we come to the million-dollar question: if a crocodile and an alligator were to fight one another, which reptile would come out on top?
Reading through the above sections, you can see that crocodiles have the edge over alligators in many different ways. So, in a head to head fight, the crocodile would probably win.
Crocodiles are larger than alligators, so their body size gives them an obvious advantage right from the start.
Crocodiles are usually more aggressive than alligators, so a crocodile would be more likely to pick the fight while an alligator would try to escape first.
Crocodiles have a stronger, more powerful bite, so a crocodile would be most likely to deliver a killing blow to an alligator–and would probably do so more quickly than an alligator could.
So, in general, crocodiles would probably defeat alligators in a fight, but again, this may depend somewhat on species. Some crocodiles may be slightly smaller than some alligators.
Also, if the fight were to take place in a colder environment, the alligator may have a slight edge over the crocodile simply because alligators are more cold tolerant.
All things considered though, a crocodile’s natural aggression and bite strength, as well as the sharpness of its teeth, would most likely give it the edge.
Alligators and crocodiles may look similar to the casual observer, but they actually have many differences. Crocodiles tend to be larger, more powerful, and more aggressive than alligators, so they would be the most likely reptile to win in a head to head fight.