ALLIGATORS AND CROCODILES
What is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile? That’s kind of a trick question. “Crocodile” is a common name for an order, or large group, of animals called crocodilians. Alligators, caimans, and gavials are all crocodilians—but so are crocodiles.
HOW ARE THEY DIFFERENT?
One way to tell the difference between alligators and crocodiles is by looking at their snouts. Alligators and their close relative, the caiman, have broad, rounded snouts. Crocodiles have longer, sharper snouts that are shaped like triangles.
Crocodiles have a tooth on each side of their lower jaw that sticks up when their mouth is closed. Alligators do not show any teeth when their mouths are closed.
The Indo-Pacific, or saltwater, crocodile is one of the biggest reptiles. It is about 23 feet [7 meters] long and weighs more than 2,000 pounds [more than 1,000 kilograms]. The American alligator is smaller. It can grow to 20 feet [6 meters] long.
Crocodiles live in warm, tropical places. Alligators can live in cooler places as well as warm environments.
HOW ARE THEY THE SAME?
All crocodilians are reptiles. They are cold-blooded. This means they must warm up by lying in the sun. They cool off by staying in the shade.
Crocodilians breathe through lungs. They spend most of their time in water but must come to the surface to breathe.