A new day, a new thing

My goal to learn something new every day

Day 78: Alligator or Crocodile?

Ever since my son’s been able to hold on to anything, he’s been fascinated by my phone. At first I wouldn’t let him play with it because he’d end up messing up all of the settings. However, more recently, I let him play with it. It helps to calm him down, and he becomes captivated by the light. To stop him messing up the phone though, I downloaded an app that sets it to kids mode: the aptly named ‘Kids Mode’.


The app revolves around this character, an alligator, who waves and talks and plays games and so on. My son doesn’t speak yet, but I nicknamed the character Ali (because he’s an alligator, you see), and now when I get home, I ask my son “Where’s Ali?” and he knows to run off an find my phone. Anyway, while we were playing today, and I was going on about Ali, it suddenly dawned on me—what if it’s not an alligator after all. What if he’s a crocodile? As I was thinking out loud, I looked down at my son staring back at me with a blank expression on his face. He just wants to see Ali make funny noises. But he’s in bed now, and so back to finding out what is the difference between a crocodile and an alligator. Fortunately, I’m not the only person to wonder, and the internet is full of similar queries and lots of useful information.

Jaw shape

One of the biggest differences seems to be the shape of the animals’ jaw. Alligators have wider snouts that look like a U. Crocodiles, on the other hand, have narrower snouts that look more like a V. The upper jaw of an alligator is larger than the lower one. This means that when the jaw is shut, you can see the top teeth sticking out, but the bottom teeth are typically hidden. On Crocodiles though, the upper and lower jaws are about the same size, which means you can see the top teeth sticking out as well as the fourth tooth on the bottom when the jaw is shut.

Salt glands

Crocodiles have glands in their tongues that help them to deal with salt easily. The glands filter the salt, which means that crocodiles can comfortably live in saltwater areas. Alligators, on the other hand, do have the glands but they can’t use them anywhere nearly as effectively, which means that alligators typically prefer freshwater habitats.


Alligators are only found (naturally) in the US and China, typically in freshwater habitats as mentioned above. Crocodiles are distrubuted much more widely, and can be found in many different countries throughout the world.


Both crocodiles and alligators are reptiles and can be called crocodilia. However, crocodiles and alligators belong to different subfamilies. Alligatorsare of the Alligatoridae family, while crocodiles belong to the Crocodylinae family, and are also known as true crocodiles. Because the animals belong to different families, there are a number of biological differences that are not visible on the outside. Crocodiles for example are more aggressive than alligators.


Based on my findings therefore, I think I can conclude that Ali is most likely an alligator. He has more of a U-shaped snout and is pretty friendly 🙂

Sources (for more information)

San Diego Zoo, Crocodilian, Wikipedia (alligators), Wikipedia (crocodiles)

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This entry was posted on March 19, 2015 by in Animals and tagged , .


March 2015

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