The Gharial, Gavialis gangeticus, is one of two surviving members of the family Gavialidae. The Gharial (also known as gavial) is found in small numbers in India and other small populations in the Kaladan and Ayeyarwady River basins in Myanmar. Most gharials are adapted to calmer areas in deep fast moving rivers. They rarely leave the water and do so only to bask in the sun or nest on sandbanks near the river.
The gharial is the second-longest of all living crocodilians. A large male can be from 16.5 to 19.5 feet long. It has an elongated, narrow snout, similar to its relative, the false gharial. The snout becomes progressively thinner the older the gharial gets. The bulbous growth on the tip of the male’s snout is called a ‘ghara’ (after the Indian word meaning ‘pot’), present in mature individuals. The bulbous growth is used for various activities, it is used to generate a resonant hum during vocalization, it acts as a visual lure for attracting females and it is also used to make bubbles which have been associated with the mating rituals of the species. The elongated jaws are lined with interlocking, razor-sharp teeth.
Although it is not suited with proper leg musculature to walk as most crocodiles do, the gharial pushes itself across the ground and can even reach some good speed when needed. In the water the gharial is the most nimble and quickest of all the crocodiles in the world. Its tail is laterally flattened, more so than other crocodiles, which enables it to achieve excellent water locomotive abilities.
The young gharials prey primarily on small invertebrates such as insects, larvae, and also small frogs. The mature adults feed almost solely on fish. The snout is designed for little resistance in water locomotion while it snaps up fish and holds them in its razor-sharp teeth, while they struggle. The Gharial is not thought to be a man-eater. Despite its immense size, its jaws make it physically incapable of devouring any large mammal, including a human being. However, specimens, especially some from the Ganges, have been found with jewelry in their stomachs, suggesting that they may have swallowed them while scavenging corpses that had been consecrated to the river.
Mating season lasts from November through December and sometimes into January. Nesting and laying eggs takes place in March, April, and May.
Between 30 and 50 eggs are deposited into a hole dug by the female.
Once egg laying is done, the female gharial covers the hole and the eggs are incubated there for roughly 90 days. Once the eggs hatch and make their way into the river, the mother protects them only for a few days at which time the young can fend for themselves.