Alligators are part of the crocodile order, so while all alligators are crocodiles, only some crocodiles are alligators. There are many types of crocodiles all over the world (and the order goes back 84 million years to the Cretaceous Period), but there are only two types of alligators—the American alligator of the U.S. south, and the Chinese alligator, which lives only along the Yangtze River.
In addition to alligators, the crocodile order includes gharials, caimans, and several species referred to simply as crocodiles. The Australian animal, for example, is a crocodile, not an alligator. American alligators are technically crocodiles, but we generally refer to them as alligators. Species in the crocodile order also live in Africa, Southeast Asia, South America, and India.
The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission directed staff to advertise a rule amendment to extend alligator hunting hours. [Naples Daily News]
But Australian miner Eddie Sigai found himself on the wrong side of a crocodile when one grabbed his arm and dragged him underwater at a Queensland creek. [BBC News]
Posing with what appear to be toothy grins, these alligators were captured in stunning close-up as they enjoyed a dip in the Florida Everglades. [Daily Mail]
Two men escaped being eaten by a crocodile which they claim swallowed their car keys after their boat flipped in infested waters in a remote part of the Territory. [News.com.au]
Alligator tears/crocodile tears
Crocodile tears, meaning an insincere display of grief, is the original expression. Alligator tears is a variant that occasionally appears in American writing.