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UHD Shea Street Building statue

Three out of the four statues around campus that depict the university mascot, alligator, are crocodiles

By Edward Saenz and Ryan Price

Editors Note: This article is an update to an article in Volume 67, Issue 8 which had incorrect information on statues.

In July 2019, UHD had a series of alligator statues constructed in front of the One Main Building and Shea Street Building. However, it turns out the statues are actually crocodiles!

“It serves as a symbol of institutional pride for the university community and is a perfect addition to the [campus],” former UHD President Juan Sánchez Muñoz said about the statues.

According to Ryan Price, a geo-sciences major focusing on paleontology, two of the “gator” statues have distinct crocodilian features. The statue that sits outside of the One Main Building by the METRORail entrance holds characteristics of both crocodiles and alligators.

“Crocodiles and alligators are members of the same group, Crocodilia,” Price said about how the mix-up may have happened.

To the average eye, the differences are not that noticeable.

The key differences involve the shape of the jaw and placement of the teeth and lips. The scales on the tails are also very different, mainly in placement and shape.

“The [scales] that line the back, this is called an osteoderm; it’s literally armor skin.”

According to Price, the scales on an alligator stay the same from the base of the head down to the neck, whereas with crocodiles, the scales are slightly modified.

“Alligator tails are really wide because it lets them swim, it’s like a big fin. So [the statue] has that right,” said Price.

“The head is another great place to go. So, an alligator head should be a [upside down U]. A crocodile is more of a V-shape,” Price said about the statue outside the One Main Building.

“This is a crocodile head with some messed up [osteoderms] that doesn’t look right.”

Price went on to talk about how the teeth are a great difference between the two. When alligators shut their mouth, their bottom teeth cannot be seen. However, the OMB alligator statue appears to have the lip structure of a crocodile.

Crocodiles and alligators replace their teeth their whole lifetime, according to Price. Because of this, it was impossible to tell how many teeth any of the statues had.

“We can say that the One Main Building statue is a crocodile, based on the shape of the head and the tail. The tail, too big. The head is more of a V-shape with a pronounced snout as opposed to just being wide all the way around.”

The statues outside the Sciences and Technology Building and Commerce Street Building also had characteristics more in line with crocodiles than alligators.

“The heads on these two are correct,” Price said about the two buildings statues. “However, the scales are incorrect and once again the feet aren’t characteristic of a gator or a croc, this is like a dragon. So, we can confidently say these are some type of crocodile.”

The good news is that the statue outside the Shea Street Business Building is an alligator.

“The head looks good, big head with no prominent snout,” Price said. “The scales are uniform across the tail, not crazy pronounced like you’d see on a crocodile.”

For once, the legs were done properly. The scales on an alligator’s legs should have a uniform square pattern.

“Look at the mouth, it has this wide lip. If we could close this gators mouth, you wouldn’t see the teeth. The tail, all of it is good. The [Shea Street Business Building] is an alligator!”

When asked about how this type of mix-up could happen, Price talked about the top search results on Google Images. While searching for alligator scales, multiple pictures of crocodiles showed up, and vice versa with crocodile searches.

​“I typed in ‘alligator’ [top-down view] and the first four results are crocodile,” Price explained. “You actually really have to scroll for a while to see an actual alligator. Unless you have an expert on hand you would just go with the first results, which it appears is what happened with the UHD statues.”

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Last updated 5/24/2022 4:27 AM