Can You Tell the Difference between Crocodiles and Alligators?

It's not easy to tell the difference between crocodiles and alligators, both of which you may encounter in South Florida. Some people say that there is a color difference but they look remarkably similar in the wild. The crocodile's snout is much pointier than the alligator's, though, and the entire head of the croc is much more angular than the more rounded, softer shape of the gator head. The easiest and most sure way to tell them apart is to look at their teeth (as if you wouldn't see them anyway...!). The pictures below can help you see the difference.

Both of these reptiles demonstrate remarkable quickness and can cover a short piece of ground or water in a hurry. You'd have to have a big head start and Olympic speed to outrun or out swim one of these, so keep your distance. Which is tougher? That's hard to say as each can suffer massive and fatal wounds from territorial encounters with the other.

The Canon EOS Digital Rebel single lens reflex (dSLR) camera was employed for most of the photos below. It was equipped with a  Sigma zoom lens 200-500 mm, sometimes with a 1.4 tele-extender. All photos on the page are downsized and compressed for loading speed. High resolution 6.3 megapixel images are archived offline.

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The crocodile (above, center), when seen from the side profile, has a flatter head than the alligator (above, left). The eyes of the croc seem to be embedded in the flat head as opposed to the eyes of the gator which reside in a large crest or bump on the head. The raised snout and eyes protruding from ponds and lakes in Florida commonly belong to alligators (above, right).

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The alligator (above, left), when its mouth is closed, shows only a few of its upper teeth hanging over its lower jaw.  On the other hand, the crocodile (above, center and far right) has any number of teeth from the bottom jaw extending over the upper jaw and vice versa.

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The crocodile snout (above) is angular and comes more to a point than the alligator's, which is more rounded and wider (right).




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