Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Taylor. Taylor Wonders, “What is the difference between a crocodile and alligator?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Taylor!
Do you spend much time in jungles or swamps? If so, you're likely to come across a variety of reptiles. You may have fun chasing small lizards, but you'll want to keep an eye out for snakes. You might also want to be wary of larger lizard-like creatures that can be bigger than you.
What are we talking about? Alligators and crocodiles, of course. If you come across one of these creatures, how can you tell which it is? After all, they can look quite a bit alike.
You'll want to study the animal carefully to make sure you know whether you're dealing with a crocodile or an alligator. You might need to lure the animal to within a few feet of you, so you can examine its teeth up-close.
Just kidding! If you see an alligator in the wild, you'd better say, "See you later!" and get away as quickly as possible. Likewise, it's best to tell a crocodile, "After a while!" and head back the way you came. These animals can be very dangerous and are not to be messed with.
All kidding aside, alligators and crocodiles do look quite similar to most people. That's to be expected, since they're from the same scientific order (Crocodilia). They're from different scientific families, though, so there are significant differences between the two.
Although you shouldn't approach either animal, looking closely at their teeth and mouths can tell show you some key differences. One of the easiest ways to tell alligators and crocodiles apart is by looking for teeth when their mouths are closed. When alligators close their mouths, all their teeth are hidden. Crocodiles, however, have sharp teeth that are clearly visible when their mouths are shut.
While you're looking closely at the animal's mouth, you'll also notice a difference in shape between alligators and crocodiles. Crocodiles tend to have snouts that are more pointed and V-shaped. Alligators, on the other hand, have wider snouts shaped like a U.
Some people can distinguish crocodiles and alligators by the color of their skin. Alligators are known for their dark green skin. Crocodiles tend to be lighter in color and more tan or brown than green.
If you're in the wild, you might be able to make a good guess about which creature you're dealing with based upon your location. Crocodiles tend to inhabit saltwater habitats, while alligators are more likely to be found in marshes, swamps, and lakes with fresh water.
Overall, crocodiles are more common, since they can be found in many places around the world, especially Central America and most of the Eastern Hemisphere. Alligators, on the other hand, mainly live in the United States and China.