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Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)



Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)
Order: Crocodylia, Family: Gavialidae

The gharial's most distinguishing feature is its long, narrow, slender snout, which makes for a useful fishing tool. Its eyes are set well up on its head, and its nostrils are at the tip of its long, slender snout. The gharial's jaws have small, sharp teeth. The upper surface of its neck and back have an armor of bony plates, and the toes on its hind feet are webbed. An average adult gharial measures up to 20 feet in length. The gharial is olive green, mottled with chrome yellow, which fades with age. Its underside is pale yellow.



I. DESCRIPTION:
  • The gharial's most distinguishing feature is its long, narrow, slender snout, which makes for a useful fishing tool.
  • Its eyes are set well up on its head, and its nostrils are at the tip of its long, slender snout. The gharial's jaws have small, sharp teeth. The upper surface of its neck and back have an armor of bony plates, and the toes on its hind feet are webbed.
  • An average adult gharial measures up to 20 feet in length.
  • The gharial is olive green, mottled with chrome yellow, which fades with age. Its underside is pale yellow.
II. GEOGRAPHICAL RANGE AND HABITAT:
  • The gharial is native to India and can be found along four rivers: the Ganges, Indus, Mahanadi and Brahmaputra.
  • The gharial's very limited geographic distribution and the destruction of its natural habitat account for this animal's status as an endangered species.
  • Gharials spend much of the time lying just under the surface of the water, with only their eyes and nostrils exposed.
III. DIET:
  • Gharials sway their heads from side to side when hunting for prey, which is usually fish or sometimes frogs. They have also been known to hunt crustaceans, mollusks and turtles.
  • A gharial will sometimes toss prey into the air, so that it can swallow it headfirst.
  • Gharials can search large areas because of their long snouts, but catching larger prey proves to be difficult, if not impossible.
IV. LIFE CYCLE/SOCIAL STRUCTURE:
  • Through conservation programs, the gharial population is a little more than 1,500. But the species is still endangered.
  • Males reach sexual maturity at 7 to 8 years of age; they usually measure 8 to 9 feet in length. Females are sexually mature at 15 to 18 years of age and measure 13 feet.
  • Females lay their eggs in the sand of dried riverbanks; each nest is filled with about 40 eggs. Freshly hatched young are about 14 inches long. The incubation period is 60 to 80 days.
  • Mothers help dig the young out in response to their grunts. Both male and female gharials care for young.
  • Gharials do not carry their young in their mouths like other crocodilians, probably because of their long, slender snouts.
V. SPECIAL NOTES/ADAPTATIONS:
  • The gharial is the most aquatic of all the crocodilians and the largest species. Its legs are weak in comparison to its powerful tail, which is used for swimming in deep Indian waters.
  • In spite of its great size, the gharial is harmless and actually darts into water at the sight of man. There is no record of a gharial ever having killed a man. However, females guarding their nests should be treated as potentially dangerous and left alone.



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