- Each reptile belongs to a different genus: crocodiles belong to the crocodylus genus; alligators belong to the alligator genus.
- American crocodiles are generally capable of growing up to 20 feet and weighing 2,000 lbs. Alligators on the other hand are only capable of reaching 11 feet and weighing 800 lbs.
- Crocodiles often have green scales and are gregarious by nature while alligators’ scales are often darker and the reptiles themselves, solitary.
If you have always wanted to be able to tell the difference between an American crocodile vs American alligator, you’re in the right place! But what are all of the differences between these two creatures, other than their physical differences? There may be more than you think.
In this article, we will address all of the differences between American crocodiles and American alligators, including their preferred habitats, lifespans, and genuses. Let’s get started and learn more about these giant carnivores now!
Comparing American Crocodile vs American Alligator
|10-20 feet long; 300-2,000 pounds
|8-11 feet long; 400-800 pounds
|Gray, green, or brown in color, V-shaped snout
|Black in color, U-shaped snout
|Location and Habitat
|South Florida, Central and South America; freshwater and saltwater habitats
|Throughout the Southern United States; freshwater habitats
Key Differences Between American Crocodile vs American Alligator
There are many key differences between American crocodiles vs American alligators. The American crocodile is from the crocodylus genius, while the American alligator is from the alligator genus. They also have different life spans, with the American crocodile out living the American alligator by at least 10 years. Finally, the habitats of these two creatures differ, with American alligators found throughout the Southern United States, and the American crocodile primarily living in Central and South America.
Let’s discuss some of these differences in more detail now.
American Crocodile vs American Alligator: Genus and Scientific Classification
While American crocodiles and American alligators share very many similarities, they are indeed different animals based on their genus and scientific classifications. For example, the American crocodile is a member of the crocodylus genus, while the American alligator is a member of the alligator genus. There are two known species of alligator, while there are roughly 13 species of crocodile, another difference between these two creatures.
American Crocodile vs American Alligator: Physical Appearance and Size
Another key difference between the American crocodile vs American alligator is their physical appearance as well as their size differences. Crocodiles grow larger than alligators on average, and this is especially evident when comparing the American crocodile and the American alligator. Let’s discuss these size differences in clear detail now.
The average American crocodile grows anywhere from 10-20 feet long and weighs 300-2,000 pounds, while the American alligator grows 8-11 feet long and weighs 400-800 pounds, depending on age and gender. While it can be difficult to tell the size differences depending on the age and gender of either of these two reptiles, it tends to be fairly obvious which one is the crocodile and which one is the alligator.
There are also a few subtle physical differences between the American crocodile and the American alligator other than their size. For example, the American alligator is usually black in color, while the American crocodile ranges in color from green, gray, and all the way to brown. The snout shapes of these two creatures differ as well, with American crocodiles having V-shaped snouts, while alligators have U-shaped snouts.
American Crocodile vs American Alligator: Behavior and Diet
Another potential difference between the American crocodile and American alligator lies in their overall behavior and dietary preferences. While both of these creatures are considered apex predators and fearsome carnivores, they eat different things based on their sizes. For example, the American alligator prefers to eat fish, birds, and turtles, while the American crocodile eats fish and larger mammals such as deer.
The behavioral differences between American crocodiles and American alligators differ as well. While both are extremely territorial creatures, the American crocodile spends more time with other crocodiles in general, while the American alligator prefers to spend its time in solitude unless it is their mating season.
American Crocodile vs American Alligator: Preferred Habitat and Geographic Location
Another key difference between an American crocodile vs American alligator is their preferred habitat and geographical location. The only place that these two animals can be found together is Southern Florida, given that American alligators live in the Southern United States and the American crocodile lives in Florida only. The American crocodile lives primarily in Central and South America, while the American alligator lives in North America.
The Florida Everglades in Southern Florida is the only location where you will find both of these creatures inhabiting and coexisting at the same time. This is why the Florida Everglades is a very special ecosystem, with many protective measures in place to keep the habitat and its residents safe.
While both of these reptiles enjoy similar habitats of warm waters and marshy environments, the American alligator lives only in freshwater, while the American crocodile lives in both fresh and saltwater. This is a key difference when you think about where these two creatures may be located.
American Crocodile vs American Alligator: Lifespan
The final difference between the American crocodile and the American alligator is their lifespan. While both of these creatures are considered particularly long-lived given their apex predator status, the American crocodile tends to outlive the American alligator. Both in the wild and in captivity, the American crocodile lives for an average of 30 to 70 years, while the American alligator lives anywhere from 20 to 60 years on average.
Can a Human Outrun a Crocodile?
An adult human in good health holds the upper hand when it comes to outpacing any member of the crocodilian family. The swiftest recorded running speed among crocodilians was achieved by a Freshwater Crocodile, and even then, it barely exceeded 10 miles per hour. Although a Saltwater Crocodile may initiate a brief chase from the water’s edge following an initial strike, it is no match for a determined human runner.
Further, it is commonly suggested that the competition with other crocodiles, along with its immense size, has ingrained a sense of natural aggression.
American Crocodile Vs American Alligator: Who Would Win in a Fight?
It all boils down to size here. And sheer aggression. In which case luck does seem to be on the side of the American crocodile. Especially since it has a reputation for being more belligerent compared to the American alligator. In which case a 20-foot croc would most likely inflct a crushing defeat on an enraged territorial alligator. There is also the issue of bite force. While alligators’ are pretty impressive at 2,000 psi, they are outdone once more by American crocodiles with the highest recorded value being 2,980 psi.
All things considered, it may be more prudent for American alligators to give American crocodiles a wide berth although the unpredictability of wild nature makes the possibility of that occurring on every occasion, highly improbable.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © iStock.com/Bradley Proxmire
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