Difference Between Alligator and Crocodile
By Andrew Parker - March 1, 2023

Alligators and crocodiles are very distinct from their physical characteristics to their habitats and behavior. Despite sharing many similarities, these two reptiles have distinguishable traits that set them apart. With similar sizes, body shapes, jaws, and snouts, it is no surprise that people commonly mistake one species for the other.

The habitats of alligators and crocodiles are one of their main distinctions. Crocodiles can eliminate extra salt from their bodies thanks to lingual salt glands on their tongues. Although alligators share a salt gland, their inefficiency limits the alligator’s ability to tolerate salt water. As a result, alligators prefer freshwater areas like lakes and marshes. These variations in salt tolerance might potentially explain the variations in their global distribution.

Chart Summary
They are dark, blackish-Grey in colorThey are light, olive green, or brown 
Alligators have a broad, U-shaped snoutCrocodiles have a V-shaped snout.
Alligator in water with mouth open

Getty images/Moment/ Andre Pinto


The crocodile is larger, more aggressive, mainly green or brown, and has a V-shaped snout. The American alligator is black or gray above with a cream underside, has a U-shaped snout, and is smaller and shyer than crocodiles.

Alligator vs. Crocodile

One of the key differences between alligators and crocodiles is the snout. Alligators are wider and U-shaped, while crocodiles are longer, narrower, and V-shaped. Crocodiles have special glands in their tongues that help excrete excess salt from the body. This means they can spend days or even weeks at sea. Alligators also have these glands, but they do not work very well, so they usually stick to freshwater habitats, although they can sometimes be found in saltwater water. Alligators generally do not see the lower teeth when the mouth is closed. In crocodiles, however, several teeth in the lower jaw appear most notably the fourth largest tooth. Although alligators and crocodiles can be dangerous, alligators are generally much less aggressive than alligators.