What's the Difference?!

Welcome to my first Keating Creature newsletter!

HEY! My name is Jess Keating. I'm an author and a HUGE science nerd and zoology lover, so I think it's important to KEEP LEARNING EVERYDAY. These newsletters are for teachers, students, and anyone else with a curious mind. Everything is classroom friendly, so feel free to share as needed!

Today I'm going to show you how to tell the difference between crocodiles and alligators!



When telling the difference between a crocodile and an alligator, the first step is to FIGURE OUT WHERE YOU ARE.

  • If you're in North America, chances are you're looking at an ALLIGATOR (there are only few species of crocodiles that live there!)
  • If you're anywhere else in the world, it's probably a CROCODILE.

If you don't know where you are, you probably have bigger fish to fry.


Rounded vs V-Shaped

The next step in figuring out your reptiles is to look at their SNOUT. They may look the same at first glance, but all good scientists know how important good observation skills are!

  • In general, alligators have ROUNDED SNOUTS
  • Crocodiles on the other hand, have sharper, V-SHAPED SNOUTS

Take a look at the pictures below for examples!

The top picture is an alligator. The bottom picture is a crocodile. But what do you do if you can't see the reptile from the top like this?


Top vs Bottom

Here's where things get interesting. The final step in determining if it's a crocodile or an alligator is to check out their TEETH. Both alligators and crocodiles have toothy grins, but there are still clues to look for:

  • Alligators have top jaws that look like they OVERLAP their bottom jaws. This means the only teeth you will see on an alligator are the TOP TEETH.
  • Crocodiles have 'scarier' looking jaws (that's the technical term), and if you look closely at them, you will see a SCARY 4th BOTTOM TOOTH poking up from their jaw. This is a distinguishing feature of crocodiles!


Can you tell if these reptiles are crocodiles or alligators?

Use the steps above to make your guesses!


1) Alligator (the rounded snout gives it away!)

2) Crocodile (look for that nasty looking 4th tooth)

3) It's albino! But still an alligator, and you can see the overlapping top jaw.

Glossary word of the day: Observation

Observation: the act of seeing, perceiving, or noticing something carefully

"Scientists must use their powers of observation to take in every detail of their surroundings."

Some Bonus Reptile Facts!

Because nerdy science is where it's at.

  • The first crocodilians appeared about 230 million years ago!
  • Crocodiles can't chew their food. This is why you often see them throwing their heads back to eat—they're flinging food to the backs of their throats!
  • Scientists recently discovered that alligators and crocodiles sometimes eat FRUIT. This means they are important for ecosystems, as they spread fruit seeds in their poop! (Nobody said zoology wasn't messy at times.)

About Jess

Thanks for tuning in! If you have any suggestions for future Keating Creature Issues, drop me a line at the info below! Anything science or animal related is fair game!

Books to check out:

You can also find out more info here on GOODREADS!