This week is SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Channel and we’ve been tuning in. (I know it’s not that smart to be watching sharks right before you go on a cruise but I digress…)

Sunday we were watching a special called Robo-Shark where they put a robotic shark with a camera among real sharks to try to observe their behavior without human interference. Once of the things they were doing was profiling Bull Sharks, one of the most deadly sharks in the ocean. The interesting thing about Bull Sharks is how adaptable they are – they can exist in salt water or fresh water, and typically find their way up streams and into lakes were other sharks wouldn’t venture. One of the most interesting things they showed was bull sharks getting into tussles with Nile crocodiles. At which point I turned to Wes and said “What’s the difference between a crocodile and an alligator?” And he responded “Look at those crocogators!!” Well actually he responded with “I think it has to do with the nose… let’s watch the crocogators.”

We all know of the famous crocodiles:

* The croc from Peter Pan who takes Captain Hook’s arm

* Crocodile Dundee (ok maybe not a famous crocodile!)

So what’s the difference?

Wisegeek puts it this way:

The first difference between a crocodile and an alligator is that they are from different families of crocodilians. Crocodiles are from the crocodylidae family, while alligators and caiman are from the alligatoridae family.

Hmmmm, somehow that doesn’t seem to help…..

In terms of physical differences the easiest way to tell the difference between the two is that a crocodile has a very long, narrow, V-shaped snout, while the alligator’s snout is wider and U-shaped. Because of the wide snout of the alligator it packs more crushing power to eat prey like turtles that constitute part of its diet. The narrow crocodile snout, although still very powerful, is not really suited for prey like turtles but is very versatile for fish and mammals.

Ahhh well that helps. You’re right honey… it’s all about the nose!

Another physical difference between the crocodile and the alligator is that the crocodile’s upper and lower jaws are nearly the same width, so the teeth are exposed all along the jaw line in an interlocking pattern, even when the mouth is closed. They also have an enormous 4th tooth on the lower jaw that is accommodated by depressions in the upper jaw just behind the nostrils.

An alligator, on the other hand, has a wider upper jaw, so when its mouth is closed the teeth in the lower jaw fit into sockets of the upper jaw, hidden from view. Only the teeth of the upper jaw are exposed along the lower jaw line. Even the enormous 4th tooth on the bottom jaw, which is exposed in a crocodile, is hidden in the alligator.

Another physical difference is that crocodiles have a lighter olive brown coloration, while alligators appear blackish. Alligators also prefer freshwater while crocodiles like brackish water and sometimes even ocean.

How about some pictorial examples? (I learn by seeing…)

I see a Crocogator!


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