Yes, crocodiles and alligators are related. Both of them belong to the same order of Crocodilia. They are also related to gharials and caimans. However, they cannot interbreed because they do not belong to the same genus.
The crocodiles that people know belong to the Crocodylidae family, while alligators belong to Alligatoridae. Both of them have species and different subspecies.
Are alligators and crocodiles cousins?
Yes, both crocodiles and alligators are cousins. However, they are not “first cousins.” These two animals evolved from the same ancestor, the archosaur. In analogy, humans and chimpanzees came from the same primate ancestor but are not first cousins.
Related, yes, but not close enough in lineage, is the right thing to say. The common ancestor is the archosaur for both animals—a subclass of different types of reptiles.
The word archosaur means “ruling reptiles,” and they are the common ancestry of crocodiles, alligators, and even birds. They are also the reptiles that allowed dinosaurs to evolve, including flying reptiles like the pterosaurs.
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Can an alligator and a crocodile mate?
No, crocodiles and alligators cannot mate. Although they look similar, they are far apart as biological species.
On the other hand, Crocodiles have many extant sub-species, and some of them are known to mate in the wild.
Currently, there is one thing that is worrying scientists. Cuban and American crocodiles are inter-breeding in the wild. Why is this a problem?
Cuban crocodiles are rare. There are only about 4,000 of them in two isolated Cuban swamps. As a result, they are listed as critically endangered animals.
When an animal species like this is endangered and inter-breed, there is a possibility that they will become extinct if the hybridization does not stop. The Cuban crocodile will eventually die out, giving birth only to hybrids.
The American crocodile is common in the Caribbean. They are notendangered, but they have moved to the territories of the Cuban crocodiles. They did it because the freshwater habitat of the Cuban crocs isbecoming more and more brackish, which the American crocs like.
The solution is to put regulations in agriculture, which is the main culprit for the environmental changes in the freshwater habitat. The other solution is to pump freshwater to make the area less attractive to the American crocodile.
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Did alligators evolve from crocodiles?
No, alligators did not evolve from crocodiles. Instead, both crocs and gators evolved from the same lineage or ancestors.
Fossils show that the first alligator evolved about 245 million years ago. The alligator came first before the crocodile, as crocodiles only appeared 80 million years ago.
The first group of alligators is the Brachychampsa. The brachychampsa had short teeth, but it had a large mouth. Scientists say that the brachychampsa has more biting power than the modern alligators that are still extant.
So, did crocodiles evolve from alligators then? No, they did not. Crocodiles, alligators, and gharials came from the suborder Eusuchia.
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Why are alligators and crocodiles different?
Evolution is the answer to why they are different. Evolution is nothing more than a random genetic abnormality, which can be influenced by the environment. Diet can also affect how evolution works.
From time to time, a species gets born with different genetic makeup. If this genetic makeup does not make the species die, it can multiply. Then, it gets passed on, and then further mutations occur.
The same thing happened with crocodiles and alligators. As they spread throughout the world, they also mutated because they had different diets and environments.
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Yes, they are related to dinosaurs in the sense that they came from the same ancestor. However, the closest descendants of dinosaurs are not crocodiles and alligators but birds.
The link between dinos and birds is the archaeopteryx. It was a hybrid creature that had wings. However, it also had teeth and a long bony tail.
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What is the difference between an alligator and a crocodile?
The main differences between gators and crocodiles are the following:
- Jaw shape
Alligators are typically green or black, and their snouts are like the letter U. A crocodile’s snout is more like a letter V.
Crocodiles are also bigger than gators, and more aggressive. Their color is lighter, and some of them are brownish and greyish.
Gators and crocodiles are not just different on the outside. For example, the forelimbs of an alligator have a shorter humerus bone than the crocodile.
There is also a difference in their physiology, and it is because of where they live. Crocodiles have lingual salt glands.Crocodiles use this to expel salt from their bodies.
The lingual salt glands are the physiological properties that allow crocodiles to live in salty waters. Alligators also have the lingual salt gland, but it is not as effective as the glands of the crocodiles.
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Alligator and crocodile similarities
Since these animals are cousins, they surely have similarities, too. For one, both of them live near bodies of water. However, they cannot live in the water forever, as they are not amphibians.
Both crocodiles and alligators are semi-aquatic reptiles. They are formidable underwater, and they prefer to live in wetlands in coastal areas. Both of them are also fast swimmers.
Crocodiles and alligators are also carnivores. However, the gators are opportunistic hunters, while crocodiles are active hunters of big animals.
They also share similar skin and scales. Although they have bony plates and body armor, they both have sensitive cones spread throughout their body. These are integumentary sense organs (ISOs), and they are extremely sensitive.
Since they both possess ISOs, they are extremely aware of their surroundings. They can feel a drop of water and detect where the movement is coming from, making it easy for them to hunt underwater.
Crocodiles and alligators are related, but they cannot interbreed. The subspecies of crocodiles can hybridize, but it is not known if alligators can do the same. Both crocs and gators came from the order Eusuchia, which, in turn, came from the archosaur. Birds, dinosaurs, crocodiles, and alligators all came from the archosaur.