The gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) also known as Indian gharial is the only living crocodilian species of the genus Gavialis, from the Gavialidae family.
The gharial was originally distributed in the rivers, Indus, Ganges, Brahmaputra and Mahanadi in Pakistan, India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Bhutan. Today only small populations are found in India and Nepal. The distribution of the gharial is coincident with that of mugger crocodile (Crocodylus palustris).
The gharial mainly inhabits deep and fast-flowing rivers, with natural pits and high sand banks in the margins. The gharials are not found in salt water. The gharial, is the most aquatic of all crocodile species, they have extreme difficulties moving in land mainly due to their short and stumpy legs.
This species differs from all other crocodilians by their elongated and narrow snout,and the presence of a protuberance in male adults snout, characterizing a visible sexual dimorphism. Another of its unique features is the externalization of the teeth of the anterior half of maxilla and mandible when its mouth is closed.
Males are larger than females, measuring between 4.5 to 5 meters, while females are on average 3.5 to 4 meters. With records of specimens measuring up to six meters in length, is one of the largest species within the order Crocodylia.
The largest known specimen was killed in 1924 in the Kosi river in northern Bihar and measured 7.1 meters.The weight of an adult varies between 159 and 181 kg. Adults have a dark brown or olive on the back, and white or yellow on the belly.
The chicks are brown-gray with five irregular transverse bands on the body and nine on the tail. The longevity of gharials reaches an average of 40 to 60 years.
The gharial does not usually attack humans, despite its large size. Their thin, fragile jaws make it physically unable to consume a very large animal, or even a human being. The human remains found in the stomachs of gharials are explained, probably because of their habit of feeding on corpses.
Gharial, is the one of the most aquatic of all crocodilian species, they have extreme difficulties moving in land mainly due to their short and stumpy legs.
Gharial - Diet
This is essentially a piscivorous (fish eating) crocodilian, but very large individuals, may eat other prey and scavenge dead animals. Juveniles eat insects, larvae and small frogs. Their snout morphology is ideally suited for catching fish. Gharials often use their body to trap fish against the banks where they can be more easily captured.
Gharial - Reproduction
Gharials live in harems of 4 to 6 females to one male. Females reach sexual maturity when they are almost 3 meters long, and males when they reach 4 meters. The mating season occurs for about two months, during November, December and January.
The nesting is done during the dry season (March, April and May) in holes dug in sand banks in which about 40 large eggs are laid and then buried.
The eggs are incubated naturally in the nest, but the female remains near it to protect the nest from predators such as pigs, Jackals and lizards.
After about 70 days, when the hatchlings are ready to leave, they call inside the eggs, prompting the mother to dig the nest letting them out. They show some parental care.
Gharial - Conservation status and major threats
The gharial is classified as critically endangered by IUCN, the fact is that there was a reduction in population size of more than 80% in the last ten years or three generations, and beyond that, the decline may not be reversible.
The populations of Pakistan, Bhutan and Myanmar, and possibly Bangladesh, are considered extinct.
Three viable populations occur in Nepal (Rapti river / Narayani) and India (rivers Chambal and Girwa). Other non-viable populations are found in rivers Karnali, Babai and Koshi in Nepal, and Mahanadi, Son, Ken and Ramganga in India.
Did you know?
The saltwater crocodile is the largest reptile alive today.