How To Tell The Difference Between Alligators & Crocodiles

Lisa Yount / Unsplash, Jan Zikán / Unsplash

While the two reptiles, alligators and crocodiles, are related and quite similar, there are a few key differences that can help you tell them apart.


Crocodiles tend to prefer saltwater, while alligators hang out in freshwater areas.


An alligator’s upper jaw is wider than its lower jaw, so when it closes its mouth, its teeth are hidden. When a crocodile’s mouth is closed, it looks like its flashing a smile.

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Crocodiles have a pointy, V-shaped snout, while alligators have a wider, U-shaped snout.

If you spot a crocodile or alligator in the wild, it’s not a good idea to get a closer look to find out how to classify the animal. For people in the Southeastern United States, it’s important to be aware of crocodile and alligator activity, and to stay away from areas inhabited by these animals.

If you do happen to come across a crocodile or alligator, don’t approach the animal or its nest. If an alligator or crocodile runs towards you, run away as fast as you can, and forget the zig-zag running advice you may have heard. Most humans can outrun an alligator or crocodile in a straight line.

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