#WildlifeWednesday – #AmericanAlligatorPart1- #Introduction

Starting a new series today that I hope you folks will enjoy. Since I’m not able to give my local wildlife talks at the present time, I decided it would be fun to share some of the tidbits from them here on TWS. I hope you’ll enjoy seeing a couple of interesting slides from various presentations I’ve done, and learning a few new things about wildlife, particularly wildlife found in Central Florida. And, as I mentioned in an earlier post, my good friend and fellow wildlife lover, Dennis Burnette, will be joining us when he can to share some wildlife posts of his own. Our posts won’t follow a strict scheduled, but will always be shared on Wednesdays, and we both hope you’ll enjoy the information we pass along.

I figured I’d get the ball rolling with a post on Florida’s most famous (notorious?) critter, the American Alligator. I’ll mostly be using photos taken by my good friend, the late Doug Little, who spent years leading ecotours on the St. Johns River. Happily, Doug gave me several hundred of his pictures to share wherever I wanted, including this photo of “Ol’ Tick,” a large, ancient alligator who had reserved this very spot along the river for his own exclusive use. (Would you challenge this guy? I think not.) 

Photo by Doug Little

Now … Exactly What Is an Alligator?

I’ve noticed that folks from other parts of the world often refer to alligators as “crocs,” but alligators and crocodiles are different animals, honest. Yes, it’s true that all alligators are crocodilians, but  all crocodilians are definitely not alligators.

(Trust Me: The Only Croc in this Picture is the Shoe)

To help sort it all out … or perhaps confuse you even more …  consider this: There are 23 species of crocodilians, but only two of them are alligators. Yep. Just TWO. 

23 Species of Crocodilians (Partial List)

*Spectacled Caiman (Caiman crocodilus) – native from Mexico to Northern Argentina

*Black Caiman (Melanosuchus niger) – native to South America

*Australian saltwater crocodile (Crocodylus porosus)  – native to Australia
*Australian freshwater crocodile (Crocodylus Johnstoni) – native to Australia
*Nile crocodile (Crocodylus niloticus) – native to Africa
*Mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris) – native to India
*Orinoco crocodile (Crocodylus intermedius) -native to  South America

*Gharial/Gavial – (Gavialis gangeticus) – native to Northern parts of India


Yep, you read right. Only TWO out of 23 crocodilians are alligators. The other 21 species fall under one of the three categories listed above.

I’m always amazed that out of the only two alligator species on earth, one lives in the southeastern part of the United States …

and the other one lives clear around the world in China! The Chinese alligator is restricted to the Yangtze River area, where the orange dot is in this illustration.

That seems pretty strange, but it’s true.  The Chinese alligator is also a critically endangered species, and is a much smaller reptile than our American one. See?

The American alligator is a whole ‘nuther animal, as we say around these parts, and grows to a much, much larger size than their 5’ long Chinese counterparts. Here are some numbers that might surprise you:


Average Sized Males: 11 feet, 780 lbs
Average Sized Females: 8.5 feet, 201 lbs
Verified Record Size: 13.9 feet
Unverified Record Sizes: 17 to 19 feet
Common Reports in the Late 1800s: 16 to 20 feet

Just think … this guy is nowhere near his potential full size!


*The American alligator is said to have the third strongest bite force of any living animal. (First and second place go to the saltwater crocodile and the Nile crocodile). 

*The Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission considers alligators to be a “Keystone Species,” modifying wetlands during drought, and being vital to the health of their environment.

*Sometimes these predators eat wild grapes, elderberries, and citrus that grow alongside rivers and streams.

*The American alligator is the official state reptile for Florida, Louisiana, and Mississippi.

*A Miocene era alligator skull was found in Marion County, Florida. (Age estimates vary from 5 million to 23 million years old!)

*The old theory was that alligators continue to grow throughout their lives. New data indicates  that growth stops at 25 to 30 years of age.

*The average lifespan of the American alligator is roughly the same as the average lifespan for humans.

Now that I’ve told you all about alligators and crocodiles being two different critters, let me add that we DO have a species of crocodile in south Florida, down in the Everglades area. The species there is the American salt water crocodile (Crocodylus acutus), and is a completely different animal in both appearance and temperament than the American alligators we have throughout the entire state. You can tell them apart merely by looking at them, and here’s the scoop on that.

Check it out!

Picture 1: Alligator on the left, crocodile on the right;
Picture 2: Alligator in top photo, crocodile in bottom one.

Notice the bigger, wider, heavier-looking, U-shaped head on the gators,
and the darker gray to black coloring, as compared to the V-shaped head
and lighter grayish-tan color on the crocs.  It’s also of note that when the crocodile’s mouth is closed, you can see his top AND bottom teeth. Only the upper teeth are visible when an alligator’s mouth is closed. (It should go without saying if you are close enough to check their teeth, you should probably get the heck outta there!)  😁

One more comparison shot. Again, the alligator has a much more rounded, heavier looking head, compared to the croc, with its more slender, pointed snout. And, even though this croc is somewhat muddied up a bit, he is still lighter and more brownish in color than the gator. Crocs can range from light gray to a pale tan, but they are never the dark gray-to-black an adult alligator is.  Yes, they both look like giant, toothy lizards, but it’s really not that hard to tell them apart.

As for temperament, in general crocodiles tend to be a good bit more aggressive than alligators, though I would not recommend going swimming with either one. (More on that  topic later.)

I think this is probably a good place to stop for today, and I
hope you enjoyed learning a bit about the
American alligator.

Please join me next time for:

90 thoughts on “#WildlifeWednesday – #AmericanAlligatorPart1- #Introduction

    • Glad you enjoyed learning a bit more about these very interesting critters, Sharon. I find all reptiles interesting (as I do most animals) and gators are an especially important part of the environment here throughout their range. Thanks for stopping by today, and I hope you’ll enjoy this wildlife series. Two more parts on alligators with some fun facts and pictures, and then we’ll be on to all sorts of other things.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to say hello! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’m glad you enjoyed learning a bit more about alligators, Clive, though I still maintain it’s our most notorious critter. (I won’t go into any comparisons pro or con, as I don’t allow politics on my blog.)

      Personally, I find alligators very interesting, and the entire species of crocodilians sort of amazing. Generally speaking, though, I stay IN my canoe, and they stay ON the riverbank, and all is well between us. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by today and taking the time to say hello! Have a great rest of the week ahead. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

        • Thanks, Clive. I appreciate that. For me, blogging, writing, and (especially) reading are how I escape from all the sturm und drang. And I do like my blog to be a means of escape, too.

          And being afraid of alligators, crocodiles, and the like (hence, avoiding them) is a good way to stay safe. 😀 I’m not afraid of them in the proper circumstances, but as I always say, I never SWIM in any body of water that isn’t enclosed in turquoise concrete–and even then, I look before I dive in. 😀

          Liked by 1 person

    • Ha! “Which way round.” I love it, Cathy! 😀 And once you see either one (try the local zoo), you’ll immediately see the difference. Honest. Of course, if you see one in the wild, you may have to check them out over your shoulder as you run the other way. 😀

      Thanks so much for stopping by today, and taking a moment to say hello. Next time, I’ll be focusing on baby gators, and they are MUCH cuter. Honest! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Craig, and the teeth were just a bonus thing. If you see a big, scaly, 4-legged reptile while driving by a lake or river while there, it will be an alligator. HONEST! Safe travels, my friend! And enjoy the rest of your week, with or without toothy critters in the vicinity!

      Liked by 1 person

  1. This is wonderful! That U and V explanation was worth it on its own, but the facts, the images and the humour come together in an irresistible package! I looked up the difference between crocs and gators years ago but the infamous scene in Crocodile Dundee had a mechanical one with a very broad head… Much as I love to hear about other critters around the world, I’m glad that most of them aren’t freely roaming in the UK! 😀 ❤ 😀

    Liked by 3 people

    • You know, oddly enough, I’d be very sad if we somehow lost our alligators. I very much enjoy them, but I also respect them and give them a WIDE berth! They not only swim better and faster than I, they can run extremely fast, too. I’ll toss those stats into Part 2, just for fun.

      I’m so glad you enjoyed this post, Trish. I had a lot of fun putting it together and I’m really looking forward to the next one, Bringing Up Baby. Some fun pics and facts in that one, too, I think. (At least, that’s my aim.)

      I never even thought about what was supposed to be a crocodile in the Dundee movie, though I did see it. Looking at some stills from the film, I found one with an animal that doesn’t look like either one, and I’m assuming it was a mechanical one. I found another picture of him walking in a crowd (bar, maybe?) carrying one that does look like a crocodile, though probably fake or stuffed. BTW, Australian crocodiles can get enormous! I mean, BIG, BIG, BIG! And I don’t think you could stab one through the skull very easily, either … except in Hollywood. 😀

      Thanks for stopping by today and letting me know you enjoyed the post. I had fun with it, for sure, because nobody ever taught me that facts were supposed to be dry and dull. 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • The American alligator IS native to the southeastern part of the U.S. and that is pretty much the extent of their range, Debbie. I’m really glad you enjoyed the post, and hope you’ll like parts two and three, too. Babies in one and albinos and leucistics in the last one.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today and taking the time to let me know you enjoyed Wildlife Wednesday. Have a great rest of the week! 😀 ❤


  2. This was an interesting read, Marcia! It’s six o’clock in the morning as I type this. I just teased to the hubster that I already learned something new for the day. (At the dinner table, we each share something we learned that day.)

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! Glad you started your day off learning something new, Priscilla, especially since it gave you a head start on your competition with your husband. Now you can relax for the day while he keeps searching for something new to learn. 😁Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to say hello. Hope you’ll enjoy Part 2 of this one, when we get into nesting and baby gators, who are much cuter! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Texas definitely has some alligators, Joan. I’m surprised you’ve only seen one, actually, but then again, I have spend many, many hours on our rivers, and that might give me a slight edge over those who prefer dry land. 😁Glad you got some photos of the one you saw, though. I have very few pics of my own, believe it or not. I lost a camera overboard once, and quit taking them along. And back then, cell phones weren’t with me everywhere I went.

      Thanks so much for stopping by this morning and taking a moment to share your thoughts. Have a super rest of the week! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Thanks for the interesting post, Marcia. I kind of new about the difference in their nose shapes but not really about the difference in coloring. And l had no idea that there’s only 2 types of alligator 😮

    Liked by 2 people

    • It’s sort of amazing that there are only 2 species of alligators out of 23 crocodilians, isn’t it? Glad you learned a couple of new things, and hope you are looking forward to the baby gators next time.

      Thanks for stopping by today, Jeanne, and taking a moment to let me know your thoughts. Have a great rest of the week! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I think alligators are super cute, especially the beefier ones. Don’t get me wrong, I wouldn’t want to sidle up next to one, but they’re… no other way to say it. They’re cute. Great start to this series, Marcia. I’m sure you miss your in-person talks, but it’s nice that a broader audience is getting to see this.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I love that you think they’re cute, Staci. I’ve never thought of them in quite that way, though I enjoy seeing them. But I’m usually just thinking what amazing creatures they are, and what a great job they do in their wild environment. Either way, we both have positive views of them, in general, and we are both smart enough not to sidle up next to one. 😁BTW, if you think the big guys are cute, I suspect you’ll love the pics of the babies! 😉

      I do miss my in-person talks HUGELY, but I also enjoy sharing here on my blog, so it will work for now. And if the series proves to be popular, I’ll probably keep it going, even if I’m eventually allowed to get back to my talks. So glad you enjoyed today’s post, and thanks so much for letting me know! Have a great rest of the week! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Marcia, your blog was very informative and interesting with great illustrations. The differences you pointed out between the alligator and the crocodile makes me wonder why the popular round-toed foam shoes are named crocs and not allies. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    • 😂😂😂I LOVE it, Nancy! I’m gonna use that somewhere in a talk or post, giving you full credit. Great point!

      I’m glad you enjoyed today’s #WildlifeWednesday, and hope you’ll like the rest of the series, as it continues. Two more Gator posts, very different topics, and then I’ll be moving on to birds and other critters.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today to let me know your thoughts and to share that funny comment. (Still chuckling, here). Have a great rest of your week! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

    • I’m so glad you enjoyed this, Gwen, and hope you’ll feel the same way about the series going forward. Two more alligator posts (on babies & on albino & leucistic gators) and then I’ll be moving on to birds, and other critters. I’m looking forward to these as a great way to fill in for no in-person talks, and even if I’m allowed to get back to those, I’ll probably continue with #WildlifeWednesdays for some time.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and taking a moment to let me know you enjoyed the post, and learned something new, too. Have a great rest of your week!


    • Haha, me too, Janet! Though they used to think they never stopped growing, and since they can live 75+ years, that could results in gigantic gators. I’m glad new studies have proved they stop much earlier than that. I’ve seen a 12-footer, and that was mind-boggling enough. 😁

      Thanks for stopping by today and sharing your thoughts on BIG gators! 😀 Have a great rest of the week! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  6. So interesting, Marcia 🙂 I knew there was a difference but I didn’t know what it was. I’ve seen one at a distance on a visit to Florida but that is as close as I’ve come to one.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Alligators are really pretty interesting, Denise, as are most reptiles. They’ve had to make all sorts of adaptations to living in this world successfully. I’m glad you enjoyed today’s post, and hope you’ll like the next two, as well. Got some good pics for you and some more fun facts.

      Thanks so much for stopping by and here’s to a great rest of the week ahead! 😀 ❤


  7. Love Wildlife Wednesdays! I’m so glad it’s back.

    Fascinating as always, Marcia! I’m thankful not to have either where I live. Can’t even imagine having to worry about running into a croc or alligator. Cool that they like a little fruit in their diet. 😀

    Liked by 2 people

    • I wondered if anyone would pick up on that, Sue. 😁I thought that was a fun fact, myself. I’ve actually seen them chomping on the enormous underwater roots of spatterdock plants (also called yellow pond lilies). I never could figure out why, as they don’t look like they’d taste good, but then … I’m not an alligator. 😁

      Thanks for stopping by today, and stay tuned for Part 2 before too long. Baby alligators are fun! Have a great rest of the week! 😊❤️

      Liked by 1 person

  8. It’s great to learn the difference between an Alligator and Crocodile. And there is a distinct difference, as you point out. I’ve often thought maybe these reptiles were leftovers from the dinosaur era. Thank you for sharing your expertise, Marcia!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, they certainly go back at least as far as the Miocene era, as the picture above shows. I don’t know that era well enough to know about any dinosaurs, but I do know that alligators have not changed in any significant ways for centuries upon centuries, so they may have seen a few dinosaurs back in the day. I’ll have to see if I can find out more about that.

      And wait until you see the American saltwater crocodile pics Dennis sent me today. The difference in how they look compared to gators is very, very clear. I need to be sure he doesn’t want to use them in one of his own posts before I share them, I guess. But if he says it’s okay, I’ll post them Friday.

      Thanks for stopping by today, Jan, and I’m really glad you enjoyed the post. Have a great rest of your week! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I’ve been waiting for this series, Marcia, because I like to learn. I knew the difference between alligators and crocodiles already, but there were other facts I didn’t realize (Age, Chinese Alligators, substantial size differences between male and female alligators). Bite strength—I wonder how they measure that? I’m not signing up for that.😊

    Liked by 2 people

    • There are so many cool things to know about alligators that I can almost always find a few new ones in any article I read, even though I’ve lived around them almost all of my life. I’m so glad you enjoyed today’s post, and I’m looking forward to sharing Parts 2 and 3 with you, too, Pete. Hope you’ll like them, as well.

      Thanks for stopping by today to share your thoughts, and PLEASE do not sign up for the bite strength testing! 😮I think we’d all prefer you to keep your body parts safe from reptilian teeth at all times. 😁

      Oh, and I received some excellent pictures of our American saltwater crocodiles today from my friend, Dennis, which I plan to share as an “in-between” post on Friday. Hope you’ll tune in. I think you’ll enjoy them. (Dennis is an excellent photographer!)

      Have a great rest of the week! 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Excellent comparison of alligators to crocodiles! People who want to see and photograph ‘gators should have no trouble finding them in the southeastern part of the US, especially in coastal areas with marshes and swamps. Crocs are an entirely different proposition. I have looked for crocodiles when I’ve been in the right habitat for most of my adult life. I’ve seen them only once. They can be found in the Caribbean and parts of coastal Mexico, but if you want to see them in the United States, you’re most likely to encounter them in the southern tip of South Florida south of Miami where there are mangroves. I saw several in Flamingo on Florida Bay in Everglades National Park.

    Liked by 2 people

    • I’ve been to various Everglades areas several times over many years, and only ONCE managed to spot a fairly large American saltwater crocodile lying on a bank across a canal from us, and yep, in the area of Flamingo. It was pretty exciting. This was at least 35 years ago, and I know there are lots more of them down there now. Would love to see them, but that’s a long drive from where we live, so don’t know if I’ll make it down there again or not.

      Thanks so much for stopping by today, Dennis, and I’m looking forward to you sharing some nature posts and photos with us when you can. Folks will really enjoy them, I’m sure! Have a wonderful rest of the week, my friend! 😀


    • Glad you enjoyed it, Jennie, and thanks so much for stopping by to let me know. Alligators are fascinating creatures, for sure, and I hope you’ll check out Part 2 and Part 3, when I get the done. Then we’ll move on to birds and other wildlife. 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • I’ve always believed learning something new every day is good for my brain, so I hope you think so, too. I’ll try my best to include lots of good info in these posts, and will be sharing Alligators Part 2 in a couple of weeks. Hope you’ll enjoy following along, Debra, and thanks so much for stopping by to let me know you enjoyed this one! Have a great day! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  11. This was a fascinating post Marcia. I always thought they were the same animal but with two different names. You explained the differences in the shape of their heads so well that I can’t quit thinking about them. I’m reading this before bed so I hope I don’t see either one in my dreams! 🫨

    Liked by 2 people

    • Ha! As much as I enjoy alligators (in their place), I don’t think I care to dream about them, either. 😮😁

      I’m so glad you learned some new things today, Kay, and hope you’ll enjoy this series as it grows. Stay tuned for Part 2 and see what’s what with alligator babies and their Mamas. 😀

      Thanks so much for stopping by, and hope you have a great day! 😀 ❤


    • Glad you enjoyed the post, Jackie, and unless your caravanning takes you to the SE United States or China, any reptiles of this nature you see (outside of a zoo) will not be alligators, so your job of identifying them just got easier! 😁Hope you’ll find this series fun as it progresses. I’ve got lots of ideas rattling around in my brain for various subjects you might enjoy. (Fingers crossed.)

      Thanks so much for stopping by today to share your thoughts, and happy travels, my friend! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

    • Good move on your part, Yvette. Give them a wide berth and they will not likely come near your canoe. I followed that rule for many, many years, and it’s always worked for me. I do, however, ALWAYS stay IN my canoe, and never swim in our lakes or rivers. Even if you don’t spot one, you can bet they are in pretty much every body of water in Florida. I figure it’s not worth the gamble. 😉

      Thanks for stopping by today and I hope you’ll enjoy this series in the weeks ahead. Have a great day! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  12. Fascinating Marcia and loved learning more about the differences in Crocodiles and Alligators. I knew having seen news items and videos that the alligator grew very big but when you see the statistics it really brings it home.. wonderful photographs and although not as good as hearing you deliver this talk in person, definitely the next best thing.. ♥♥

    Liked by 2 people

    • If you ever read my bio, you’ll be resting assured in that regard. Pretty much the only thing in nature I don’t love. I don’t kill spiders, understand, as they have an important job to do, but as it says in my bio, I now have my husband handle my Arachnid Catch & Release program. 😀 😀 😀

      Glad you enjoyed the post, Sue, and hope you’ll feel the same way about the future ones in this series. I’m looking forward to sharing all kinds of wildlife here, when I finish the 3-part alligator posts. Thanks for stopping by today! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 2 people

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  14. Thanks for this great info Marsh. I always wondered what the difference between these two were. Lots of crocs in Puerto Vallarta Mexico in the rivers and swamps. They are scary to look at lol ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    • Lots of different kinds of crocs, too, Debby, but only TWO kinds of alligators: those in the southeastern U. S. and those clear around the world in China. And crocs ARE scarier to look at, at least to me, plus they are usually more aggressive, too. Not that I’d go swimming with alligators, but I prefer canoeing past them to canoeing past crocodiles.

      Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you’ll enjoy my next #WildlifeWednesday post, American Alligators Part 2, Bringing Up Baby. I’m enjoying putting it together. 😀 Have a great weekend! 😀 ❤

      Liked by 1 person

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