ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel

8 Main Differences Between Freshwater and Saltwater Crocodiles

Updated on August 15, 2018
PaulGoodman67 profile image

Paul has been a devotee and enthusiastic studier of crocodilians ever since his first encounter with an American alligator in 2007.

Saltwater crocodile.
Saltwater crocodile. | Source

So What's the Difference Between Freshwater and Saltwater Crocodiles?

Often known as "freshies" and "salties" to Australian locals, freshwater and saltwater crocodiles are two species that you may encounter if you travel through Australia. It's useful to know the difference between them, mainly because saltwater crocodiles can be very aggressive and be dangerous to humans and should be avoided at all costs. Freshwater crocodiles are less likely to attack.

Note: Always err on the side of caution. If you think that a crocodile might be a saltwater, based on size, keep well away and don't be tempted to take a closer look.

8 ways to tell freshwater and saltwater crocodiles apart:

  1. Shape of the snout. Freshwater crocodiles have long, thin snouts, compared with saltwater crocodiles, which have broader, more powerful snouts.
  2. Location. Freshwater crocodiles only live in northern Australia. Saltwater crocodiles live in a much wider area, stretching all the way from the eastern coast of India and throughout most of Southeast Asia, all the way down to and including northern Australia.
  3. Habitat. As their names suggest, saltwater crocodiles prefer water that is more saline or salty, whereas freshwater crocodiles prefer a freshwater habitat.
  4. Jawline and teeth. Freshwater crocodiles have straight jawlines and their teeth and fairly evenly sized. Saltwater crocodiles have uneven jawlines and their teeth vary in size.
  5. Size. A full-grown saltwater crocodile can easily be 3 meters (10 feet) longer than an adult freshwater crocodile.
  6. Diet. Freshies tend to eat smaller animals that are found near rivers, such as insects, turtles, fish, frogs, snakes, and waterbirds. Salties also eat small animals, but in addition consume larger prey such as wild pigs, and livestock.
  7. Armored plates. Freshwater crocodiles have closely-knit armored plates on their back, while saltwater crocodiles do not..
  8. Behavior. In terms of aggression, the saltwater crocodile is a much bigger threat to humans.

Once you understand the differences, it becomes fairly easy to tell them apart. I explore each of these differences in detail below.

A saltwater crocodile. Note the relatively broad and powerful-looking snout.
A saltwater crocodile. Note the relatively broad and powerful-looking snout. | Source

1. Different Shaped Snouts

One of the main differences between freshwater and saltwater crocodiles is the snout. The freshwater's is long and relatively thin, whereas the saltwater’s is thicker and more powerful-looking.

The difference in snout shapes has most likely evolved due to the two species eating different diets (see below).

A freshwater crocodile at Australia Zoo. Note the long thin snout, straight jawline, and even teeth.
A freshwater crocodile at Australia Zoo. Note the long thin snout, straight jawline, and even teeth. | Source

2. Location

Freshwater crocodiles are peculiar to northern Australia. Saltwater crocodiles inhabit a much broader area - as well as northern Australia, they can be found on the east coat of India, and historically throughout most of Southeast Asia, although their numbers have diminished considerably over time and they are now extinct in countries such as Thailand, Laos, and Vietnam.

Saltwater crocodile tracks in East Timor.
Saltwater crocodile tracks in East Timor. | Source

3. Habitat

Despite being able to tolerate saltwater freshwater crocodiles generally prefer freshwater environments, such as swamps, lakes, billabongs, and the upstream sections of rivers. It is rare for freshwater crocodiles to be found in saltwater.

Saltwater crocodiles, as their name suggests, prefer saline or brackish habitat. They can be found along the coastline and on beaches, as well as in estuaries, rivers, lagoons, and swamps.

Saltwater crocodile on the beach in Darwin, Australia.
Saltwater crocodile on the beach in Darwin, Australia. | Source

4. Jawline and Teeth

Freshwater crocodiles have a straight jawline with teeth of relatively similar size. Saltwater crocodiles have an uneven jawline and their teeth vary in size, with some nearly double the size of others.

Freshwater crocodile. Note the long thin snout, the relatively straight jawline and even teeth.
Freshwater crocodile. Note the long thin snout, the relatively straight jawline and even teeth. | Source

5. Salties are Bigger

One of the main differences between a freshwater crocodile and a saltwater crocodile is size. Freshwater crocodiles are much smaller than saltwater crocodiles, growing to approximately two meters (6.5 feet) in length, with males growing to be three meters (10 feet), and a maximum weight of 90kg (200lbs). Saltwater crocodiles, on the other hand, can reach six or seven meters (20 to 23 feet) in length and weigh over 1000kg (2,200lbs).

A saltwater crocodile feeding in Australia. Salties will often eat much bigger prey than freshies.
A saltwater crocodile feeding in Australia. Salties will often eat much bigger prey than freshies. | Source

6. Different Diets

Adult freshwater crocodiles eat birds, fish, reptiles, bats, rodents, and amphibians. The size of the animal dictates the size of the prey, so larger animals will eat larger prey, such as wallabies.

Saltwater hatchlings and juveniles eat small fish, frogs, insects, birds and small reptiles. Adults will also consume larger prey, such as sharks, emu, hares, deer, dingos, gibbons, badgers monkeys, jackals, wallabies, wild pigs, and livestock. They will also eat humans.

7. Armored Plates

Saltwater crocodiles have much fewer armor plates on their neck in comparison to freshwater crocodiles. Freshwater crocodiles have closely-knit armored plates on their back, saltwater crocodiles does not.

Freshwater crocodiles also have large, broad body scales in comparison with saltwater crocodiles.

Did you know?

The saltwater crocodile is the world's largest living reptile. Although the average male is 5m in length, there are reports of individuals measuring more than 8m. Salties have a long lifespan. they can live for over 65 years.

Johnstone's crocodile is another name for the freshwater crocodile. The overall population of freshwater crocodiles is declining, likely due to the invasive species, cane toad, which is extremely poisonous to the freshwater crocodile (salties can tolerate their poison).

No Swimming sign used by Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory.
No Swimming sign used by Parks and Wildlife Commission of the Northern Territory. | Source

8. Behavior

Saltwater crocodiles are very territorial and aggressive and, along with Nile crocodiles, are considered the most dangerous crocodiles to humans. The males have large territories and are capable of attacking and eating almost any animal that comes into their area, including people. Encounters with salties should be avoided at all costs.

Freshwater crocodiles, on the other hand, are less territorial and aggressive. They are not known as man-eaters and rarely kill people, although they will bite in self-defense if they are cornered. Freshies should be respected and people should keep their distance, even if the chances of being attacked are generally much smaller.

Staying Safe Around Crocodiles

  • Avoid swimming in the same waters as saltwater crocodiles. They consider the area around them to be their territory. Stay away if you sight a saltwater crocodile on land.
  • Areas around crocodile nests should always be avoided. These are typically found by the banks of a swamp, river, or estuary. Females will be extremely aggressive around their nests.
  • Although freshwater crocodiles are generally less aggressive, they should be avoided during the months of July and August, as this is when they breed. Females become much more territorial and aggressive at this time.
  • There is plenty of official travel advice available from the Australian government on which areas that have high numbers of saltwater crocodiles, so that you know where to avoid.

Sources

© 2018 Paul Goodman

Comments

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No comments yet.

    working

    This website uses cookies

    As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

    For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://hubpages.com/privacy-policy#gdpr

    Show Details
    Necessary
    HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
    LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
    Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
    AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
    HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
    Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
    CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
    Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
    Features
    Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
    Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
    Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
    PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
    MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
    Marketing
    Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
    Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
    Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
    Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
    Statistics
    Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
    ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
    Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
    ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)