What Is The Difference Between Crocodiles, Alligators, And Gharials?

Crocodiles, alligators, and gharials are giant aquatic reptiles, which look quite similar, and have been the source of confusion for many. Learn here the difference between crocodiles, alligators, and gharials.
What Is The Difference Between Crocodiles, Alligators, And Gharials?
What Is The Difference Between Crocodiles, Alligators, And Gharials?

Crocodiles, alligators, and gharials, the three giant aquatic reptiles have been a source of confusion for people worldwide. They are all members of the Reptilia class, although they have distinct families.

While the reptile species is one of the most diverse in animal biology, the three reptiles in particular puzzle people. 

Here's how to tell the difference between crocodiles, alligators, and gharials. 

Crocodiles vs Alligators vs Gharials 

Characteristics

Crocodiles

Alligators

Gharials

Family

Alligatoridae 

Crocodylidae

Gavialidae 

Jaw/Snout Shape

long and pointed V-shaped snouts

round and U-shaped snouts

long and pointedly thin snouts

Teeth Placement

Upper and lower jaws are of similar width 

A wider upper jaw that overlaps the lower 

With large front teeth for grasping, the lower jaw is slightly narrower than the upper 

Water Body

Saltwater

Freshwater

Freshwater

Salt Glands

Salt glands on the tongue as modified salivary glands

Not present 

Salt glands on the tongue as modified salivary glands

Sense Organs 

Sensory organs on the jaws and overall body

Sensory organs on the lower and upper jaws

Sensory organs around the jaws

Moving Speed

20 mph

30 mph

15 mph

Length of Body

Can grow up to 17 feet

Can grow  up to 14 feet

Can grow up to 15 feet 

Weight

Up to 2200 lbs (997.9 kg)

Up to 1000 lbs (453.5 kg)

Up to 2000 lbs (907.18 kg)

Bite Force

3500 pounds PSI

2900 pounds PSI

2006 PSI

Average Lifespan

Can live up to 70 years

Can live up to 50 years 

Can live up to 50-60 years

Another significant difference between the three is that Crocodiles can be found in the United States, Africa, Asia, and Australia. Mugger crocodiles are found practically everywhere in India, while saltwater crocodiles live in the country's east. 

Crocodiles can live in both freshwater and saltwater environments.

Eastern China and the southeastern United States are home to alligators.

Gharials, the rarest of the three species, are found exclusively in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and a few more neighboring nations. 

They are found in a few rivers in India: the Chambal, Ganga, Yamuna, Kali, Kosi, and Gandak.

Explained: What is the difference between Turtle and Tortoise?

While alligators and crocodiles are stated as vulnerable in the wildlife conservation status, Gharials are listed as critically endangered by the IUCN Red List. It is worth noting that Gharials were once thought to be extinct, but they have recently been spotted again, and according to the latest data, there are only 650 adult gharials left in the world. 

We hope that this article was helpful in clarifying the differences between crocodiles, alligators, and gharials.

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FAQ

How is an alligator different from a gharial?

An alligator has a long, U-shaped snout, whereas, a gharial has a long, and pointedly-thin snout. Alligators are found in eastern China and the south-east of the US; on the other hand, gharials can only be found in India, Nepal, and other neighboring countries.

Is a gharial stronger than a crocodile?

No, among the reptilia class, crocodiles, especially freshwater crocodiles, are the most aggressive and powerful. Gharials are shy and often eat fish, however, there are man-eater crocodiles in many regions.

Are gharials crocodiles or alligators?

Gharials are neither crocodiles nor alligators. They are a member of the reptilia class, to which both crocodiles and alligators belong, but are vastly different from them.
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