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Differences Between Albino and Leucistic Crocodiles and Alligators

My granddaughter asked me about white alligators and crocodiles—since I didn't know how to answer her question, I decided to find out more.

Albino alligator

Albino alligator

White Crocodiles and Alligators: Are They Rare?

Alligators and crocodiles first appeared during the Eocene Epoch about 56 million years ago. They are reptiles scientifically classified as Crocodylia, more commonly known as crocodilians.

You might be surprised to learn that they are the closest living relatives of birds. Their ancestors belong to the Archosauria or Archosaurs that flourished in the Triassic geological period 200 million years ago.

People sometimes use the terms crocodile and alligator interchangeably, but these two species have a few distinct differences, which I'll go over later.

So, how rare are white crocodiles and alligators? Are they albinos? What causes the lack of pigmentation in their skin? In this article, I'll cover the following topics:

  • Differences between albinism and leucism
  • How rare are white crocodiles and alligators?
  • Differences between alligators and crocodiles

Differences Between Albinism and Leucism

  • Albinism is a congenital abnormality. It is the total absence of dark pigmentation, called melanin. However, species with other pigment cell types are not entirely white but show a pale yellow color.
  • Leucism is characterized by the reduced colorization of all types of skin pigment, not just melanin. Some partial leucism, known as the "pied" or "piebald" effect," produces unpigmented and irregular white patches on the natural skin color of the animal.
  • Melanin is a pigment or skin colorization that protects against UV (ultraviolet) radiation, which is responsible for the formation of malignant tumors or skin cancer. Melanin changes the color of the transmitted light, absorbing almost all the harmful energy and dispersing it as heat.
  • Another difference that distinguishes albino 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 is impaired, and they lack 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 housed in special enclosures that protect them from the sun's ultraviolet rays.

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 500–800 pounds. They can be viewed at alligator farms and various zoos and theme parks.

Only 1 in 10,000 crocodiles are hatched leucistic. Albino crocodiles have rarely been sighted in the wild.

Apart from their unusual lack of dark colorization, albinos or leucistic crocodiles and alligators share the same physical attributes of their more common variety.

Alligators (left) have a U-shaped snout, while crocodiles (right) have a V-shaped snout.

Alligators (left) have a U-shaped snout, while crocodiles (right) have a V-shaped snout.

Differences Between Alligators and Crocodiles

  • Snout shape: Alligators have shorter heads and broader, U-shaped snouts, while crocodiles have V-shaped snouts.
  • Skin color: Alligators tend to be darker in color. Often their skin is nearly black.
  • Location: Alligators prefer to live in fresh water, while crocodiles are also known to inhabit coastal shores and tidal estuaries. They may even migrate across the sea. This is possible because of their salivary gland, which filters the salt found in salient water from their body. Both species, however, can survive in salt water or fresh water.
  • Temperament: 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 trespasses into their territorial dominion.


Releasing Albino hatchling into farm pond

Releasing Albino hatchling into farm pond


Virginia Allain from Central Florida on February 14, 2015:

I just saw 4 of these at Gatorland in Kissimmee, FL. Quite strange looking. I wondered why they were kept inside. Thanks for explaining about their sensitivity to sunlight.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on March 19, 2012:

Shaddie ~ Kinda confusing to me at first too.:) Thanks for dropping by.

Shaddie from Washington state on March 18, 2012:

Cool hub. I like the clear distinction between the two different animals, as well as two different "color morphs."

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on November 01, 2011:

leroy64 ~ Thanks again :) I understand that Cajun cooking is very hot (peppery). I sometimes watch Emeril Lagasse's cooking show on cable. Creole cooking appear to be simple yet a very practical way of cooking.

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on October 30, 2011:

I can tell you that alligator tail tastes nothing like chicken. I think it one of those things you have to try for yourself. It is not bad.

Look up Cajuns if you want to know about the swamp cultures in the US. There are other groups that live off of the swamps; but, Cajuns are the best starting point. You will also find this group is know for their skill in the kitchen.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 30, 2011:

leroy64 ~ Thank you for the informative comment. it would be interesting to know more about the life style, custom and tradition of the people who make a living in the alligator infested swamps and bayous. In these economic depressive times, we may be able to learn a thing or two about how to live off the land and not depend entirely on the government.

BTW I'm almost afraid to ask how grilled Alligator tail taste.I'll probably to told it taste like chicken. Although I have eaten "Bayawak" a Philippine monitor lizard and it taste better than chicken :))

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on October 29, 2011:

Cookpot, fishing.

Those words remind me of something. If you happen to drive through alligator country, you will notice a lot of places serving grilled alligator tail, or fried alligator tail. I think that those gators are being raised on farms now for food.

Alligator hunting, mentioned in some of the comments, is permitted for population control in the swamps. From what little I know about that area of the US, the meat will feed families for most of the year. The skins are at least a half years income. I don't know anyone that hunts alligators for fun.

Maybe the alligator has the right idea to run away from people.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 29, 2011:

SilverGenes ~ From an almost roadkill(nice name for a blog) please keep your distance Alexandra,I've just subscribed to your RSS feed, and I'm looking forward to many rewarding articulations from a gifted writer.(How could "hubby" have miss that? :) BTW I like the spread of your new digs,clean and easy on the eyes. :)

SilverGenes on October 29, 2011:

Ah yes, my nightmare come true! If they can eat me, I keep a good distance! I didn't know all these differences though so now I have a much more detailed nightmare ;-)))

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 29, 2011:

Leroy64 ~ I wrote this hub after I didn't know how to answer my grand daughter's question. I am sure that the gators are well provided by the swamps with a smorgasbord of delectable and scrumptious meals. humans with all the junk food we eat won't be missed in their menu.

But if you unfortunately happen to fall into the cooking pot, isn't it nice to know who's coming to dinner? :))

Brian L. Powell from Dallas, Texas (Oak Cliff) on October 29, 2011:

I knew there was a difference between alligators and crocodiles; but, I did not know about the shape of the head. I really have not had much use for that knowledge. I try to stay away from creatures that see me as dinner, okay a snack really. We still see a few gators in East Texas, especially since the populations in Louisiana have made a come back.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 29, 2011:

Alastar Packer ~ Knowing your interest in fishing. It is admirable that you didn't consider trying this novelty "sport" of bait fishing. We can't fault those people for trying to earn a living. Hard to believe that sadistic impulses made them pursue that method of catching crocodiles. They must have considered other alternatives and found it the most efficient and effective way to hunt.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 29, 2011:

MartieCoetser ~ I got stumped by your " crocodiled to the stars" so I google it and came up with "Crocodile Dundee" star Paul Hogan suing the Australian govt. :) then I looked up crocodile quotes... :) and came up with these 2 similar quotes that got me curious about what kind of books Pres. Reagan read....

An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.~ Winston Churchill

To sit back hoping that someday, some way, someone will make things right is to go on feeding the crocodile, hoping he will eat you last - but eat you he will. ~ Ronald Reagan

Thanks Martie for the enigmatic comment :) See you later, alligator. :)))

Alastar Packer from North Carolina on October 28, 2011:

Captivating Hub on the albinos Silent. Great pics too. 55 year old Burt almost seems tame. The Kosloski story sure sounds interesting. Theres this show over here called Swamp people that's quite popular. Its about gator hunters and baiting big hooks for money. I know people have to make a living but the alligators suffer & fight hard before being shot. Some feel because they're reptiles its alright but I don't. Anyway thanks for a super hub Silent Reed.

Martie Coetser from South Africa on October 28, 2011:

Fantastic hub - bookmarked and crocodiled to the stars. At last I know the difference between crocodiles and alligators. Thanks SilentReed.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 27, 2011:

prasetio30 ~ Hello friend,glad to be able to share. Your uncanny ability to find unusual and fascinating subject materials is in no small measure the reason for me to surf the net for such interesting topics. Thank you :)

prasetio30 from malang-indonesia on October 27, 2011:

Wow...this was a great hub. I have never seen white crocodiles like this one. Thanks for writing and share with us. I really enjoy all the pictures and the video as well. RATED UP!


SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 27, 2011:

neeleshkulkarni ~ Unfortunately there are no Alligators in the wilds of India :). As to Crocodiles,I think they are more threatened by us due to human activities that encroach on their natural habitat. The Indian Gharial with an estimated population of less than 200 is an endangered species. Although blamed for human fatalities, the Hindi burial ritual where cremated remains are sent down the river is a more plausible reason why human remains are found inside their stomach. I'll be more cautious with the Indian "Mugger". These Crocodiles have been found in man-made body of waters like reservoir and irrigation canals.

neeleshkulkarni from new delhi on October 27, 2011:

i would hate to be with either as i swim but that alligators are less aggressive relatively was information to me.

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 27, 2011:

drbj ~ thanks and the feeling is mutual. The only way you can get me to eyeball a croc or gator is between a barrier :)

drbj and sherry from south Florida on October 27, 2011:

Thanks, SilentReed, for making it easy for me to distinguish between an alligator and a crocodile. Here's hoping I never have to use that knowledge with the real thing. :)

SilentReed (author) from Philippines on October 27, 2011:

always exploring ~ Me too! ;) But when one of my grand daughters ask me "Lolo (grandpa)what is the difference between an Alligator and a Crocodile?" This hub was the result.:) I also added pictures and a video that was more appropriate for kids. Thanks for your comments.

Ruby Jean Richert from Southern Illinois on October 26, 2011:

I must say that this is very interesting. I always thought that alligators and crocks were the same. Thank you.. Well researched hub...