The Difference Between the Alligators & Crocodiles of the Everglades
The Florida Everglades is famous for many things, one of them being the only environment on earth in which American Alligators and American Crocodiles coexist in harmony. You are very likely to run into these reptiles during your Everglades airboat tour, and you may be wondering what the difference is between the two. While they are related and do look very similar, crocodiles and alligators in the Everglades have some major differences.
Alligators and crocodiles are from the same scientific order, but from different families. They are both members of the Crocodylia, but crocodiles are from the Crocodylidae family, while alligators come from the Alligatordae family.
Crocodiles exist both in freshwater and saltwater, whereas alligators prefer freshwater environments. The Florida Everglades is the only place on earth in which both alligators and crocodiles coexist.
The most obvious difference comes from their appearances. Crocodiles have longer, pointier snouts; alligators have shorter, more rounded snouts. When an alligator has its mouth shut, you won’t see any of its teeth. In contrast, when a crocodile has its mouth shut, its back teeth stick up over the top lip, showing off a toothy grin. Because they are broader, alligator snouts are stronger than crocodile snouts, which allow them to crush hard shelled prey such as turtles. Crocodiles are typically lighter in color, with tans and brown colors; alligators are darker, showing more gray and black colors.
Both members have an extremely heightened sense, which makes them excellent hunters. With sharp, above-water vision, night vision, sensitive hearing, and vertical pupils that take in additional light, both alligators and crocodiles are a nightmare for their prey. And, with above-water vision, you can expect to see them peeping their eyes up during your Everglades airboat tour.
Both animals have small sensory pits along their jaws that allow them to detect pressure changes in the water, and to locate and capture prey. Neither reptile is a big fan of chewing their food; they both prefer to swallow large chunks or swallow the animal whole. Crocodiles have higher functioning salt glands, which allows them to excrete higher amounts of salt from water than alligators can. Alligators' glands do not function as strongly, therefore they are less tolerant to saltwater environments and prefer freshwater. With this capability, crocodiles are successful in migrating across multiple marine bodies.
Crocodiles are often regarded as much more aggressive than alligators. While you should avoid contact with both animals at all costs, alligators in the Everglades tend to be more docile than crocodiles, only attacking if hungry or provoked. Crocodiles are known to attack just because someone or something is near them; crocodiles tend to be more active in the water. Alligators in the Everglades prefer to lounge or sunbathe on the banks or in mud close to the water, which is why they can easily be spotted during Everglades airboat tours.
Studies have reported that a high percentage of female alligators will continuously mate with the same male alligators for life. On the other hand, it is typical for young batches of crocodile babies to come from multiple mates.
Crocodiles live longer than alligators. The average lifespan of a crocodile is between 70-100 years, while the average lifespan of an alligator is usually between 30-50 years. If you take an airboat tour of the Everglades with Everglades Holiday Park, the airboat captains may be able to point out some crocodiles they have seen for years and years.