The minute you see a crocodile or an alligator, your first instinct is to run away from it. But have you ever wondered what is the difference between alligator and crocodile?

For a lay man, they may look similar, but they are not. We use the terms interchangeably. However, the truth is that they neither look alike nor is their behavior same. They even belong to different families.

So, without any further ado, let us learn the difference between alligator and crocodile.

But before diving into the topic, let us learn some basic facts about crocodiles and alligators.


Scientific Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Crocodylidae
  • Subfamily: Crocodylinae

They are large reptiles that are semiaquatic. They live in tropical places of Asia, Australia, Africa, and Americas. There are a total of 16 extant (still living) species of crocodiles in the world. Some of the species are classified as Least Concern, while others are classified as Critically Endangered in the IUCN Red List.


Scientific Classification:

  • Kingdom: Animalia
  • Phylum: Chordata
  • Class: Reptilia
  • Order: Crocodilia
  • Family: Alligatoridae
  • Subfamily: Alligatorinae

Alligators are reptiles that look like crocodiles. There are only two extant species in the world which are the Chinese alligator and the American alligator. They are endemic (native) to only Mexico, the United States of America, and China.

American alligator is classified as Least Concern whereas the Chinese alligator is classified as Critically Endangered in the Red List of IUCN.

Now that we have brief descriptions of both crocodile and alligator, let us get back to difference between alligator and crocodile.

Difference Between Alligator and Crocodile: Physical Characteristics


Crocodiles and alligators are massive. But which one is bigger in size? The general size of alligator is – 3 to 4 meters long and they weigh 200 to 350 kilograms.

Crocodiles, on the other hand, can reach over 5.2 meters in length and usually cross over 900 kilograms in weight. So, crocodiles are more massive than alligators.


The alligator’s snout is rounded and broad like a ‘U.’ But, the crocodile’s snout is narrower and longer like a ‘V.’

The reason is mostly because of their diet. Alligators must break open turtle shells and their eating habits are different from crocodiles, leading to the difference in snout.


When alligators close their mouth, you will not be able to see any teeth as their upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw. So, it can easily hide the teeth.

When crocodiles close their mouth, you can see their teeth which gives their characteristic jagged smile.


The tongues of alligators and crocodiles have different shapes and an alligator can stick its tongue out, but a crocodile cannot stick its tongue out. It is because of a membrane that holds the tongue in place (without moving).


Alligators are usually dark blackish gray whereas crocodiles usually have olive or light tan skin color.


As stated earlier, alligators call the USA, Mexico, and China their home. There is no other place in the world that you can get alligators naturally.

Crocodiles, on the other hand are widely available. They are found in five continents – Africa, North America, South America, and Asia.

If you happen to live in the US, you are more likely to see an alligator than a crocodile. Why we say this? Because there are more than three million alligators in the US and there are only fewer than 2,000 crocodiles in the country.


Alligators are winners here in both running and swimming as alligators are smaller and lighter than crocodiles.

Both crocodiles and alligators can walk or run decently fast but only for short distances. Crocodiles can run at a maximum speed of 14 kilometers per hour or 9 miles per hour. Alligators can run at a speed of nearly 18 kilometers per hour or 11 miles per hour (when they are fastest).

When it comes to swimming, alligators can swim at a maximum speed of nearly 32 kilometers per hour or 20 miles per hour. Crocodiles swim at a speed of 15 kilometers per hour or 9 miles an hour.

Difference Between Alligator and Crocodile: Habitat

Alligators are mostly found in freshwater habitat and crocodiles are found near both freshwater and saltwater habitat.

Alligators and crocodiles have a special gland in their tongues that excrete any excess salt from their bodies.

However, the gland works exceptionally well in crocodiles, but it does not work that well in the case of alligators. So, the alligators stick to freshwater or brackish waters.

Difference Between Alligator and Crocodile: Aggressiveness

Alligators are defensive but not offensive. When confronted with humans, they try to escape but attack when they must protect their young, or when they are disturbed or provoked.

They are usually scared of humans, but they lose the fear as they interact with humans.

Crocodiles are a totally different here. They are mostly apex predators in their habitat, and they can eat almost any animal. There is a high probability that they would attack humans even if they are not provoked.

Australian crocodiles are considered as the world’s dangerous crocodiles in the world followed by the Nile crocodiles. American crocodiles, like American alligators, are timid and do not attack humans usually.

Attacks by either alligators or crocodiles in the US are exceedingly rare. However, you are more likely to be attacked by an American alligator than an American crocodile.

Summary of Difference Between Alligator and Crocodile:

Summing the difference between alligator and crocodile in a table.

Differentiation PointAlligatorCrocodile
SnoutRounded and U shapeNarrow and V shape
AggressivenessLess aggressiveMore aggressive
AgilityMore agileLess agile
HabitatMostly freshwaterMostly saltwater and freshwater
LocationFound only in the US, Mexico, and ChinaFound in Asia, North America, South America, Australia, and Australia
ColorDarker in colorLighter in color

With this, our article on difference between alligator and crocodile ends. If you want us to write more on such topics, do drop a comment in the comment box.


Categorized in: