dee asked in PetsReptiles · 1 decade ago

What is the basic difference between alligators and crocodiles?

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  • 1 decade ago
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    1. Different families: There are three groups (families) of crocodilians: the alligatoridae, which includes the alligator and the caimans; the crocodylidae, which includes the "true" crocodiles; and the gavialidae, which contains only the gharial. So, the first difference is that alligators and crocodiles are actually in different families.

    2. Shape of the jaw: The easiest way of telling apart crocodiles from alligators, however, is to look at their noses. Alligators (and caimans) have a wide "U"-shaped, rounded snout (like a shovel), whereas crocodiles tend to have longer and more pointed "V"-shaped noses. This is illustrated in the diagram to the left (C = alligator, D = crocodile). The broad snout of alligators is designed for strength, capable of withstanding the stress caused to bone when massive force is applied to crack open turtles and hard-shelled invertebrates which form part of their diet. Of course, alligators eat softer prey too, but hard-shelled prey are ubiquitous in their environment and it's a big advantage to be able to eat them. Conversely, the pointed snout of a crocodile isn't quite as strong as the alligatorine shape, but the crocodile is still capable of exerting massive biting power. Crocodile jaws can be thought of as being more generalised - ideal for a wide variety of prey. The full extent of the way jaw shape influences diet isn't particularly well studied in crocodilians, but it's obvious that a very thin nose like a gharial's is much better at dealing with a fish than a turtle! There are 23 species of crocodilians, though, and this simple broad vs. narrow rule doesn't always work.

    3. Placement of teeth: In alligators, the upper jaw is wider than the lower jaw and completely overlaps it. Therefore, the teeth in the lower jaw are almost completely hidden when the mouth closes, fitting neatly into small depressions or sockets in the upper jaw. This is particularly apparent with the large fourth tooth in the lower jaw (see [A] in diagram on right). In crocodiles, the upper jaw and lower jaw are approximately the same width, and so teeth in the lower jaw fit along the margin of the upper jaw when the mouth is closed. Therefore, the upper teeth interlock (and "interdigitate") with the lower teeth when the mouth shuts. As the large fourth tooth in the lower jaw also fits outside the upper jaw, there is a well-defined constriction in the upper jaw behind the nostrils to accommodate it when the mouth is closed (see [B] in diagram on right). This constriction occurs at the boundary of the premaxilla and the maxilla in the upper jaw.

    4. Lingual salt glands: Crocodiles and gharials also differ from alligators and caimans in having functioning salt glands on their tongue. Structurally, these are actually modified salivary glands, and while alligators and caimans also have these structures they appear to have lost the ability to use them for excreting significant amounts of salt. This makes crocodiles more tolerant to life in saline water, including sea water in some species. Moreover, it suggests that crocodiles have a more recent marine ancestry: the ability to migrate across wide marine bodies, and even live there for extended periods, would certainly explain their current wide distribution across different continents. If ancestral species could live in marine environments, this ability has not been completely lost in modern crocodiles. Species such as saltwater crocodiles (C. porosus) can survive for extended periods in tidal estuaries, around the coast, and even out to sea. Alligators and caimans have lost much of this osmotic ability to secrete excess salt through the tongue glands, and can only tolerate it for short periods of time, prefering to remain in freshwater areas when possible. However, it is not unknown for large alligators to find their way into tidal mangroves and very rarely into coastal areas.

    5. Integumentary sense organs: Both crocodiles and alligators have small, sensory pits dotted around the upper and lower jaws - take a close look on a photograph, and you'll see small, black speckles almost like unshaven stubble. These are capable of detecting small pressure changes in water, and assist in locating and capturing prey. These were originally called ISOs, or Integumentary Sense Organs, although recent research has renamed them DPRs (Dermal Pressure Receptors). Crocodiles have similar organs covering virtually every scale on their body, but alligators and caimans only have those around the jaws. Although it's been known for years that sense organs on the jaws are involved in pressure detection, nobody is quite sure what those organs covering the rest of the body in crocodiles actually do. They probably extend the sensory surface over the crocodile's entire body, but previous researchers have suggested they may assist in chemical reception, or even salinity detection. The confusion lies over why crocodiles have them, but not alligators and caimans. Regardless of their role, they're very good at telling apart crocodile skin from alligator skin. Crocodile and alligator skin wallets, handbags, boots etc are easy to tell apart - if the scales have a small spot or dimple close to the edge, you know the skin is from a crocodile and not an alligator or caiman. This is illustrated below - the alligator on the left does not have any sense organs, but the crocodile on the right does.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    A Crocodile is a large voracious aquatic reptile, having a long snout with massive jaws and a body covered with bony plates, living in marshy tropical waters.

    An Alligator is also an amphibious reptile, with shorter broader snouts than crocodiles.

    Source(s): Wordweb Thesaurus and Dictionary
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  • If u think thats something, wait to u see a caiman, then u will be asking:

    What is the basic difference between alligators, crocodiles, and caimans?

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  • 1 decade ago

    alligators are english just like Tony Blair and crocodiles are Americans just like JwBush

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  • 1 decade ago

    alligators turn up later and crocodiles arrive in a while.

    see you later alligator and in a while crocodile

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  • 1 decade ago

    The basic difference is the shape and size of face

    Source(s): Discovery channel
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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    alligators live in america crocodiles in africa

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  • 1 decade ago

    alligators have a pointy nose and crocadiles have a rounded noise

    Source(s): sience teacher
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  • 1 decade ago

    Shape of nose

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    alligator is smaller than croc

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