What’s the Difference Between Alligators and Crocodiles?

What’s the difference between an alligator vs crocodile? If you’ve ever visited the Sunshine State, you can’t miss them. No, we’re not talking about people in flip flops; we’re talking about alligators! They’re big, they’re exciting to watch, and they’re everywhere you look in the Everglades. In fact, as Floridians, we’re used to sharing our gorgeous state with them, and we respect the contribution they’ve made to our home. But what about crocodiles? There are distinct differences between alligators and crocodiles. If you’ve found yourself on Everglades airboat tours and in a situation where you can’t tell if the animal in front of you is an alligator or a crocodile, here are a few tips to help you differentiate the two.


To most people, alligators and crocodiles look similar. While they do share many of the same features, they couldn’t be any more different to a trained professional. Typically, crocodiles are more aggressive than alligators, which makes crocodiles more dangerous than alligators. Alligators are opportunistic feeders, meaning that they’re not likely to chase you down unless they’re provoked. However, that certainly doesn’t mean that you should swim with them. Caution and common sense should be exercised at all times near and around both alligators and crocodiles on an Everglades excursion.


When it comes to differentiating between alligators and crocodiles, observing their snout shape and jawline is often one of the quickest and most reliable methods, especially in a natural setting like an airboat tour in Miami or other areas where these reptiles are found.

Snout Shape

Alligators typically have a broader, rounded snout with a U-shaped appearance. This snout shape is well-suited for exerting strong bite force and is particularly effective for crushing and breaking open tough prey items like turtles.

On the other hand, crocodiles tend to have a narrower, more pointed snout with a V-shaped snout appearance. This snout shape is adapted for capturing a variety of prey, including fish and other smaller animals. The pointed snout allows for more precision when hunting, and it’s also useful for catching fast-moving prey in the water.

These differences in snout shape reflect the different ecological roles and prey preferences of alligators and crocodiles. However, it’s important to note that while snout shape is a useful characteristic for identification, there are other anatomical and behavioral differences between these two groups as well.


alligators have a wider upper jaw, which results in their teeth being mostly hidden when their mouths are closed. This gives them a more subtle and less toothy appearance. On the other hand, crocodiles have upper and lower jaws that are more or less the same size, leading to their teeth being visible even when their mouths are closed. This can indeed create the impression of a “toothy grin.”

These distinct jawline features are often observable even from a distance and can be helpful in differentiating between alligators and crocodiles, especially in regions where both types of reptiles are found. It’s important to note that these visual characteristics, along with other features like snout shape and habitat preferences, can collectively aid in distinguishing between the two groups.

Size and Weight


  • Adult lengths: Generally, alligators can range from about 8 to 15 feet in length, depending on the species and habitat. The American alligator, for example, can reach lengths of about 10 to 15 feet.
  • Adult weights: On average, adult alligators can weigh between 300 to 1,000 pounds. However, larger individuals can occasionally weigh more.


  • Adult lengths: Crocodile species vary in size. Smaller species, like the Nile crocodiles, can reach lengths of around 10 to 16 feet, while larger species, like the saltwater crocodile, can exceed 20 feet.
  • Adult weights: Crocodile weights also vary based on species. Smaller species can weigh around 500 to 1,000 pounds, while larger species, like the saltwater crocodile, can weigh over 2,000 pounds or more.

It’s important to note that size and weight can be influenced by various factors including genetics, habitat, available food sources, and age. The figures you mentioned are accurate as general ranges, but there can be some variability within each species. Additionally, specific measurements might change due to new discoveries or updated data.

If you encounter these reptiles in the wild, it’s important to maintain a safe distance and respect their natural behaviors and habitats.

The Skillset of Both Alligators and Crocodiles


  • Alligators and crocodiles are adept swimmers. Their streamlined bodies and powerful tails allow them to move through the water easily. They use their tails for propulsion and steering.

Running on Land:

  • Both can move quickly on land for short distances. They can reach around 11 miles per hour (17-18 km/h). However, their land speed is not sustainable for long distances.

Breath Holding:

  • Alligators and crocodiles are adapted to spending a significant amount of time underwater. They can hold their breath for extended periods, typically up to an hour or more. This ability is important for stealthy hunting and waiting for prey.

Eyes and Vision:

  • Alligators and crocodiles have eyes positioned on the tops of their heads, allowing them to remain mostly submerged while keeping a lookout above the water. This adaptation helps them blend into their environments and makes it difficult for prey to detect them.

Night Vision:

  • They have excellent night vision, which aids their nocturnal hunting activities. Their eyes contain a high density of specialized cells called rods that enhance their ability to see in low-light conditions.

It’s important to note that while these general characteristics apply to both alligators and crocodiles as a group, there can be variations among different species and individual animals.


The Crocodylidae family includes 15 species of “true” crocodiles, and the Alligatoridae family contains eight species of alligators and caimans.


  • American Crocodile (Crocodylus acutus)
  • Nile Crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus)
  • Saltwater Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
  • Orinoco Crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius)
  • Morelet’s Crocodile (Crocodylus moreletii)
  • Cuban Crocodile (Crocodylus rhombifer)
  • Philippine Crocodile (Crocodylus mindorensis)
  • New Guinea Crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguineae)
  • Siamese Crocodile (Crocodylus siamensis)
  • Indo-Pacific Crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)
  • West African Crocodile (Crocodylus suchus)
  • Mugger Crocodile (Crocodylus palustris)
  • Slender-Snouted Crocodile (Crocodylus cataphractus)
  • Australian Freshwater Crocodile (Crocodylus johnsoni)
  • Dwarf Crocodile (Osteolaemus tetraspis)


  • American Alligator (Alligator mississippiensis)
  • Chinese Alligator (Alligator sinensis)


  • Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus)
  • Yacare Caiman (Caiman yacare)
  • Broad-Snouted Caiman (Caiman latirostris)
  • Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger)
  • Schneider’s Smooth-Fronted Caiman (Paleosuchus trigonatus)
  • Schneider’s Smooth-Fronted Caiman (Paleosuchus palpebrosus)


These beautiful animals can be found all over the world – wherever slow-flowing rivers and grasslands dominate that you could see on an Everglades boat.


  • Alligators and crocodiles are semi-aquatic reptiles that spend a significant amount of time in the water. They are well-adapted to aquatic environments and are often found in or near bodies of water such as rivers, lakes, swamps, marshes, and estuaries.

Water Preference

  • Alligators are generally found in freshwater habitats such as marshes, swamps, and slow-moving rivers. They can tolerate a range of freshwater conditions.
  • Crocodiles have a broader tolerance for salinity and can be found in a variety of environments, including both freshwater and brackish (mix of fresh and saltwater) habitats. Some species, like the saltwater crocodile, can even venture into marine environments.

Geographical Distribution

  • Alligators are primarily found in China and the southeastern United States, particularly in states like Florida, Louisiana, Georgia, and parts of the Gulf Coast.
  • Crocodiles have a more widespread distribution. They can be found in North America, Central and South America, Africa, Australia, and parts of Asia. Some well-known species include the American crocodile, Nile crocodile, saltwater crocodile, and more.

Coexistence in the Florida Everglades

  • The Florida Everglades is indeed a unique location where both alligators and American crocodiles coexist. It’s one of the few places in the world where you can find both species sharing the same habitat.

Understanding the habitat preferences and geographical distributions of alligators and crocodiles is not only fascinating but also important for conservation efforts and ensuring the well-being of these remarkable reptiles.


Are you ready to come face-to-face with a living dinosaur? You can at Everglades Holiday Park! Our Gator Park is a premier destination for families, outdoor enthusiasts, and reptile aficionados alike. There’s no better place to experience exciting Everglades airboat tours, live alligator presentations, and Everglades animal encounters with the chance to pose with a baby alligator for a picture. Our park is South Florida’s best family fun locale for adventure.

As home to the Gator Boys Alligator Rescue, Everglades Holiday Park welcomes families, outdoor enthusiasts, and anyone interested in Everglades sightseeing and journeying through the ‘Glades in search of alligators, wading birds, fish, snakes, and more!

An Everglades tour is the perfect family activity and a great place to see alligators from a close but safe distance. Book your tickets today for an adventure at Everglades Holiday Park that you definitely won’t forget!

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    Interesting Facts About Alligators and Crocodiles


    • What are the main differences between alligators and crocodiles?
      • The snout is the main differentiator between the two, with the crocodile having a narrower snout. Crocodiles are also more greyish-green, while alligators are darker black.
    • How do alligators and crocodiles differ in terms of snout shape?
      • There are a few key defining characteristics that make it easy to identify between alligators and crocodiles at a glance. For example, crocodiles have pointier, V-shaped snout, while alligators have a wider, U-shaped snout.
    • Why are Nile crocodiles often confused with American alligators?
      • Tourists often cannot easily differentiate between the snout shape of the two. However, after you spend some time around them, it becomes much easier to differentiate at a glance. Our airboat captains have gotten good at telling the difference.
    • Where are alligators and crocodiles primarily found?
      • The American crocodile inhabits brackish or saltwater areas and lives in South Florida in areas where ocean water can inundate the mainland. Alligators live from South Texas to South Florida and prefer freshwater and brackish water.
    • Why are saltwater crocodiles considered more dangerous than alligators?
      • Alligators are after an easy meal, and are more likely to try to escape humans. Saltwater crocodiles are more aggressive and are more likely to attack when threatened.
    • Which has a stronger bite force: an alligator or a crocodile?
      • Alligators have a recorded bite force of 2125 PSI, while crocodiles have a bite force of 4,000 to 5,000 PSI.


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