gangeticus (aka Gavial) The word gharial is
derived from the Hindi word, "ghara,"
which means, "mud pot." It was misread
by Europeans, who changed the word to gavial.
The gharial is distinguished
from other crocodilians by its very long and very
narrow snout, which gets longer and thinner as
the animal gets older. Males have a
bulbous growth, known as a ghara, on the end of
The mouth is lined with up to
110 very sharp teeth (54-58 on the upper jaw,
50-52 on the lower jaw) that interlock when the
jaws are closed. Like all other crocodilians, the
gharial's jaw muscles give it the ability to snap
its jaws shut rapidly.
The gharial's legs are so relatively weak that
a fully-grown adult can't raise its body above
the ground. It is very agile in water, however,
thanks to a well-developed and laterally
flattened tail and extensive webbing on the rear
One of the largest members of the
crocodilians, the gharial can reach a length of
almost 20 feet and a weight of about 1,000
pounds, with males being larger than females.
Gharials are found in fragmented populations
in the Northern Indian Subcontinent, to
Bangladesh, into India and Pakistan. They are
most adaptable to calmer areas in very deep
rivers with rapids in them, and only leave the
river to sun or to nest in the sand after mating.
Adult gharials feed almost
exclusively on fish, along with some water birds
and carrion. Their unique snouts, combined with
powerful jaw neck muscles, give them the ability
to snap their jaws shut quickly and to move
the head side to side quickly to catch fish.
Young gharials eat insects,
larvae, small fish and frogs, and some fish.
Males become very territorial during the
breeding season, which runs from November to
January, and assemble a harem of females.
Egg-laying occurs from March into May, with
the female depositing 30-50 eggs (which weigh up
to 6 ounces each) into an excavated hole on the
riverbank. The female will stay close to the nest
throughout the 90-day incubation period, making
sure egg-loving predators do not destroy her
brood. Unlike other crocodilians, she will not
carry her young to the water after hatching (most
likely because her mouth is too small to carry
them safely), but she will stay in the area for
several weeks or months to protect them from
Female gharials reach sexual maturity at about
7 years, males at about 15 years. They can live
up to 60 years in the wild.
Gharials are listed as
critically endangered. The major threat to
them at present is habitat loss due to human
encroachment, and disruption of populations
through fishing and hunting activities. In
addition, eggs are collected for medicinal
purposes, and males are still hunted for the
aphrodisiac properties associated with the snout.
They may also be snared in fishing nets and
killed by fishermen.
genus & species Gavialis gangeticus
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