What Colors are Alligators and Crocodiles?

Alligators have a darker color than crocodiles. Most of the time, alligators are blackish-grey. Crocodiles, on the other hand, are light-colored. Crocodiles are typically olive green or brown (tan).

The color between these two reptiles varies because of their environment. In fact, one study shows that crocodylians modify their skin color in response to changing light conditions.

What Colors are Alligators and Crocodiles

What Colors are Alligators?

The most common color for alligators is dark grey. However, the color varies according to the environment. Some alligators share the same color as crocodiles.

Here are the possible colors of alligators:

  • Olive
  • Gray
  • Dark grey to black
  • Green
  • Tan

The underside of an alligator is creamy. Baby alligators have stripes on their bodies. Those that live in waters that have lots of algae will eventually become green or olive.

On the other hand, those that live in areas where there are lots of trees can eventually become brown. The tan comes from the tannins of the wood that penetrate the water.

What Colors are Crocodiles?

Crocodiles are often tan or brown. They use this color to hide from predators. Once the crocodile gets the green or brown shade, they need to stay deep underwater to hide from prey and predators.

As the largest living reptile, the saltwater crocodile is pale yellow with black stripes as a baby. As an adult, it turns into a dark green. It lives in brackish and marine waters and sometimes in rivers.

The Siamese crocodile is also green. The variations are olive green ad dark green. It is critically endangered, and some surmise that it is already extinct in the wild.

Are Alligators or Crocodiles Green?

Both alligators and crocodiles can be green, and the color of an adult alligator or crocodile depends on where it lives. The typical color is either green or brown.

It was in 1985 when reports first came out that crocodylians alter their skin colors in relation to their environment. At that time, it was observed that the saltwater crocodiles developed both dark and light colors when raised in dark or light tanks.

The color change took effect in as short as three months. The same lab samples changed colors when they were swapped in the other tank. The dark ones became light when placed in light tanks.

The key finding in this study is that the crocodiles do this to survive. In the wild, baby crocodiles die of predation. Only a small percentage of baby crocodiles survive in the wild. According to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, the survival rate of crocodiles is only 10%.  

How To Tell the Difference Between an Alligator and a Crocodile

Since the color of alligators and crocodiles may be the same, one must use other means to identify which is which.

Here are some guidelines:

  • Snout – the alligator’s snout is like a letter U. It is wide and well-rounded, while crocodiles have tight and pointed snouts. In addition, the crocodile’s snout is shaped like a V. Because of this, the alligator can snap preys that have a shell, like turtles.  
  • Jawline – the alligator has a wide upper jaw. When it closes its snout or mouth, the teeth are hidden inside. Crocodiles cannot do this because their upper and lower jaws are of the same size. When a crocodile closes its mouth, its teeth are still visible.
  • Size – crocodiles are bigger than alligators. Alligators can reach up to 15 feet, while crocodiles can reach 17 feet. Crocodiles are also heavier, as they can reach 2,200 pounds.

Both alligators and crocodiles are swimmers, and they use their tails for swimming underwater. They are also fast swimmers and runners.

Alligators are found only in the United States and China. Any crocodilian not in these two countries are crocodiles—the true crocodile, not an alligator.

FQA: Are Alligators and Crocodiles Related?

Yes, alligators and crocodiles are related. Both of them come from the group Crocodylia. Some spell it Crocodilia. It is an order under the clade Eusuchia, which is under the class Reptilia.

The order is split into three families. These families are:

  • Alligatoridae
  • Crocodylidae
  • Gavialidae

As the names imply, the alligators belong to the Alligatoridae family and the crocodile in the Crocodylidae family. The gharials belong to the Gavialidae family.

All of these animals share a common ancestor and appeared about 80 million years ago. The crocodile and alligator diverged in their evolution for millions of years. Their common ancestor is the Archosaur, an ancient reptile where dinosaurs also came from.

Despite being related, they cannot breed. According to scientists, there is no successful breeding of the gator and the croc. They also say that it is unlikely to happen because they live in different locations.

However, there are some crocodiles that live with alligators in the Florida Everglades. Though they live together, there was no recorded hybridization between the two. These animals have diverged so much from their common ancestors millions of years ago that they cannot breed.

It is possible for crocodiles to breed with other crocodiles. It is a major concern now in Cuba. The American crocodile is breeding with Cuban crocodiles, and this can cause the extinction of the Cuban one.

Today, there are only 4,000 Cuban crocodiles in the wild. It is already listed as critically endangered, and several organizations are doing something about it. One thing they are working on is the restoration of fresh water, as the American crocodile does not like it.


Alligators are typically dark grey, almost black. Crocodiles are usually green or brown. The color of both these species can interchange—it all depends on the environment.

Alligators and crocodiles change their colors, and it is one of their techniques to survive in the wild. As babies, they are vulnerable to predators, and they use the color change to hide themselves.

The key factors that affect their color is the algae and the tannins of trees. Those that live in waters that have green algae will turn green. And those that live in waters with lots of trees may turn tan or brown.

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