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The Alligators (Spanish el lagarto, "the lizard"), are reptiles closely related to the crocodiles.

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Alligators differ from the true crocodiles principally in having the head broader and shorter, and the snout more obtuse; in having the fourth, enlarged tooth of the under jaw received, not into an external notch, but into a pit formed for it within the upper one; in lacking a jagged fringe which appears on the hind legs and feet of the crocodile; and in having the toes of the hind feet webbed not more than half way to the tips.

Alligators proper occur in the fluvial deposits of the age of the Upper Chalk in Europe, where they did not die out until the Pliocene age.

The true alligators are now restricted to two species, A. mississippiensis in the southern states of North America, which grows up to 12 ft. in length, and the small A. sinensis in the Yang-tse-kiang, China.

In Central and South America alligators are represented by five species of the genus Caiman, which differs from the alligator by the absence of a bony septum between the nostrils, and the ventral armour is composed of overlapping bony scutes, each of which is formed of two parts united by a suture.

C. sclerops, the Spectacled Alligator, has the widest distribution, from southern Mexico to the northern half of Argentina, and grows to a bulky size. The largest, attaining an enormous bulk and a length of 20 ft., is the C. niger, the jacare-assu or large caiman of the Amazon.

Some crocodiles can be found in salty water, but most alligators stay in fresh water.

Kingdom Animalia
Phylum Chordata
Class Reptilia
Order Crocodilia[?]

  • Family: Gavialidae (Gavial)
  • Family: Crocodylidae (crocodiles)
  • Family: Alligatoridae
    • American Alligator, Alligator mississippiensis
    • Chinese Alligator, Alligator sinensis
    • Spectacled Caiman, Caiman crocodilus crocodilus
      • Rio Apaporis Caiman, C. c. apaporiensis
      • Brown Caiman, C. c. fuscus
    • Broad-snouted, Caiman Caiman latirostris
    • Yacare Caiman, Caiman yacare
    • Black Caiman, Melanosuchus niger
    • Cuvier's Dwarf Caiman, Paleosuchus palpebrosus
    • Smooth-fronted Caiman, Paleosuchus trigonatus

Cultural aspects In Native American and African American folklore, the alligator is revered, especially the teeth, which can be worn as a charm against witchcraft and poison.

Often, it is the butt of practical jokes by tricksters like Brer Rabbit.

An urban legend states that people buy baby alligators after visiting Florida or other places where they are native and flush them down the toilet once they get big. The story goes that full grown alligators exist in the sewers of cities like New York City.

Top hit from 1956: "See You Later Alligator" - Bill Haley & His Comets

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