Gharial

Gharial

Reptiles

SCIENTIFIC CLASSIFICATION

COMMON NAME: gharial
KINGDOM: Animalia
PHYLUM: Chordata
CLASS: Reptilia
ORDER: Crocodylia
FAMILY: Gavialidae
GENUS SPECIES: Gavialis gangeticus

FAST FACTS

DESCRIPTION: Crocodile—like in appearance with a distinguishing long, narrow snout and up to 110 razor—sharp interlocking teeth.
SIZE: Males range between 5 to 6.5 m. (16—21 ft.). Females are smaller, ranging between 3.5 to 4 m (11.5—13 ft.)
WEIGHT: Adults weigh between 159 to 181 kg (350—400 lb.)
DIET: Young gharials feed on a wide variety of insects and small—bodied prey such as frogs. Adults feed almost exclusively on fish.
INCUBATION: 2.5 to 3 months
CLUTCH SIZE 30-50 eggs
SEXUAL MATURITY: Sexual maturity for females is attained around 10 years of age, when they are about 3 m (10 ft.) in length. males become sexually mature around 15 to 18 years of age, when they are about 3.5 m (11.5 ft.) in length.
LIFE SPAN: Up to 60 years
RANGE: North and East India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Bangladesh
HABITAT: Riverine habitats with sandy banks
POPULATION: GLOBAL 200 breeding individuals
STATUS: IUCN Critically Endangered
CITES Appendix I
USFWS Endangered

FUN FACTS

1. Gharials have between 106 and 110 interlocking, razor—sharp teeth, which help them catch slippery fish. The long, narrow snouts of gharials have low resistance, increasing their speed through water.
2. Salt—excreting glands on the tongues of gharials help them tolerate saline (salty) environments.
3. Of all crocodilian species, gharials have the largest eggs, weighing about 160 g (6.4 oz.) each.
4. Gharial eggs are temperature—dependent, meaning the gender of the hatchlings is dependent upon the temperature in which they are incubated. In general, males are produced with warm temperatures and females with cool temperatures.
5. Hatchlings weigh 75 to 130 g (2.6—4.6 oz.) and measure 32.5 to 39.2 cm (12.8—15.4 in.).
6. Unlike most crocodilians, female gharials are unable to assist their hatchlings to water due to their unique jaw structure. However, they do protect their young around the nesting area for several weeks after hatching.
7. Adult male gharials have a rounded growth on the tip of their snouts, called a ghara. It enhances vocal communication by acting as a resonator that prdouces a loud buzzing call. The ghara is also a visual stimulus for females during the breeding season and helps with the production of bubbles during courtship displays. Males begin to develop their gharas around 10 years of age.
8. Like all reptiles, gharials are ectothermic, depending on external heat sources to regulate their body temperature.
9. Very agile in aquatic environments, gharials have flattened, muscular tails and webbed feet that help propel them through water.
10. Gharials frequently bask in the sun to increase their body temperature, resulting in better mobility and digestion.
11. Gharials have a structure at the back of the eye, behind the retina, called the tapetum lucidum, which enhances their night vision.  This mirror—like structure reflects light (that has not already been absorbed by the eye) back into the eye a second time to help produce a brighter image.  The tapetum lucidum causes their eyes to glow at night, when a light is shone on them.

ECOLOGY AND CONSERVATION

In 2007, gharials were moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered status by the IUCN. Gharial populations have declined by 58%; with the number of breeding adults decreasing from 436 in 1997 to 182 in 2006. Habitat loss from dam construction, irrigation projects, sand mining, and artificial embankments has greatly reduced gharial populations. They currently occupy 2% of their former range.