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What's the Difference Between a Leucistic Crocodile and an Albino Alligator
Alligators and Crocodiles first appeared during the Eocene epoch, about 55 million years ago. They are reptiles that are scientifically classified as Crocodylia or more commonly known as "crocodilians". It is surprising to know that they are the closest living relatives of birds. Both their ancestors belong to the Archosauria or Archosaurs that flourished in the Triassic geological period 200 million years ago.
People sometimes confuse the term "Crocodile", using it interchangeably for Alligator.
Difference between an Alligator and a Crocodile
■ Alligators have shorter head and broader snout that are U-shaped while crocodiles have a V-shaped snout.
■ Alligators tend to be darker in color, Often their skin are nearly black.
■ Alligators prefer to live in freshwater while Crocodiles are also known to inhabit coastal shores and tidal estuaries. They may even migrate across the sea. This is possible because of a salivary gland they possess which filters out the salt found in salient water from their body. Both species however can survive in sea or freshwater.
■ Alligators are not as aggressive as Crocodiles. More docile and less temperamental, Alligators prefer to furtively slip away to avoid human encounters. Crocodiles almost invariably react aggressively when a person accidentally trespass into their territorial dominion.
A very agitated captive
Difference between Albinism and Leucism
■ Albinism (Albino) is a congenital abnormality. It is the total ABSENCE of dark pigmentation called Melanin. However, species that have other pigment cell types are not entirely white but show a pale yellow color.
■ Leucism is characterize by the REDUCED colorization of ALL types of skin pigment and not just Melanin. Some partial Leucism known as the "pied" or "piebald" effect" produce unpigmented and irregular white patches on the natural skin color of the animal.
Melanin is a pigment or skin colorization that protects against UV (ultra violet) radiation which is responsible for the formation of malignant tumors or cancer of the skin. Melanin changes the color of the transmitted light, absorbing almost all the harmful energy and dispersing it as heat.
■ Another difference that distinguish Albinos from Leucistic animals is EYE COLOR. Because of the absence of Melanin, Albinos have red eyes due to the underlying blood vessels showing through the Iris.Their eyesight are impaired, lacking the visual acuity or keenness to resolve fine details. But most leucistic animals have normal eye coloring and their vision is not affected by their leucism.
How rare are white Crocodiles and Alligators?
Without the dark skin pigmentation for camouflage, it is rare for these animals to survive in the wild. Hatchlings would find it difficult to keep themselves hidden in the dark swamp. They may be able to elude their natural predators for a few days or even weeks. But because of their pale color they are easy prey.
Kept in captivity they have better chances of survival. Sensitive to sunlight, they are house in special enclosure that protect them from the ultra violet rays of the sun.
Out of the more than 1 million adult American Alligator population, it is estimated that there are less than 100 Albinos and only about 12 leucistic gators. Discovered as infants in the swamps of Louisiana and the everglades of Florida, some of the older ones are over ten feet in length and weigh between 500 to 800 pounds. They can be viewed in alligator farms and various zoo and theme parks.
Only 1 in 10,000 crocodiles are hatched leucistic. Albino crocodiles have rarely been sighted in the wilds.
Apart from their unusual lack of dark colorization. Albinos or Leucistic Crocodiles and Alligators share the same physical attributes of their more common variety.
"Popular folklore believe that seeing one of these rare and magnificent creatures would bring good luck and good fortune"
Albino Alligators at Georgia Aquarium
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