Many people tend to use the words “alligator” and “crocodile” interchangeably, implying that there is almost no difference between the two animals. While they do look similar, there are several important differences between them. Crocodiles have longer and thinner snouts than alligators. Alligators are freshwater animals, while crocodiles live in saltwater. The teeth of a crocodile are visible, even when the crocodile’s mouth is closed, while alligator teeth are invisible until the mouth is open. While there are plenty of differences between alligators and crocodiles, there are also a lot of similarities.
One obvious similarity between alligators and crocodiles is that both animals are reptiles. They are cold-blooded creatures that expend little energy when they move. They cannot regulate their own internal body temperature, and must rely on external heat sources such as the sun. They also do not have to eat as much or as often as mammals and other warm-blooded animals, despite the fact that alligators and crocodiles are known for their carnivorous eating habits. Finally, as reptiles, both animals have tough, scaly hide.
Alligators and crocodiles are both known for living in or near water, but alligators are freshwater animals and crocodiles live in saltwater. Their behavior regarding water is remarkably similar. Both alligators and crocodiles remain in wetlands and on coasts, and both animals are surprisingly fast swimmers. Both species’ aquatic habitats dictate at least some of their diet, as both alligators and crocodiles eat other aquatic animals, such as fish and mollusks.
Since alligators and crocodiles have similar jaws and teeth and are similar in size, they eat most of the same foods. Younger animals eat insects, crustaceans and small fish. As they get bigger, they eat larger animals. They usually prefer to eat animals that they can eat in one or two bites, so most of their prey is still considerably smaller than them. They do occasionally eat larger animals by biting them and dragging them underwater to drown them. Alligators are not generally dangerous to humans and prefer to run away when people are around. Crocodiles are more aggressive and generally attack everything near them, humans included.
Alligators and crocodiles are not only both reptiles, but they both belong to the animal family crocodylidae. Both crocodiles and alligators have existed relatively unchanged for the last 55 million years, and they have similar ancestors that first appeared 200 million years ago. This means that animals very much like crocodiles and alligators have existed since the time of the dinosaurs. Aside from some small evolutionary changes, both animal species have changed little since they first appeared.