The Gharial (gha·ri·al)
This past weekend I was in Florida to celebrate my father’s 90th birthday. In the limo, on the way to my father’s home, we had a discussion with the driver about crocodiles. The crocodile that lives in Southern Florida is called the American Crocodile. Although, Floridians don’t care for the crocodile – it causes a lot of trouble - it is a vulnerable species according to the IUCN*.
In honor of my family and friends in Florida, and especially for Mrs. Long’s third grade class, I have decided to discuss a relative of the American Crocodile, the Gharial. Unlike the American Crocodile, this particular species of crocodile is critically endangered. So let’s take a moment to learn about this unusual animal, and let’s hope that it is not a ‘last chance to see it.’
The Gharial is a reptile with a very long, narrow snout. The snout is filled with 106 to 110 interlocking razor sharp teeth. The long snout of the Gharial has evolved to catch fish. Their snout is ‘specialized,’ and they are unable to catch any larger prey.
This scaly fellow is one of the largest crocodiles on the planet. The only one larger is the Salt Water Crocodile of Australia. Male Gharials can reach a length of 20 to 23 feet, and weigh 350 to 550 pounds.
Although the Gharial is not capable of killing a human, jewelry and human remains have been found in their stomachs. More than likely, the items were from bodies, which were sent into the river during a Hindu funeral ritual.
The legs of the Gharial are very weak, and they have a difficult time moving on land. Because their legs are so weak, a mature Gharial will not be able to lift itself off the ground. However, their feet are well suited for swimming, and that is very good, because this crocodile is the most aquatic (aquatic means living in water) of all the other crocodilian species.
The mature male Gharial has a bulbous structure on the tip of its nose. In India there is a bowl or pot called a ghara, and that is how the Gharial got its name. There is speculation that the blub is used to signal females, but scientists are not entirely certain as to its purpose.
Even though the Gharial is not well suited for moving on land, the female does come onto the riverbanks to lay its eggs. The female Gharial will lay 20-95 eggs in a deep hole in the sand near the water line.
The eggs of the Gharial are the largest of all of the crocodilian species weighing approximately 5 ½ ounces. After about 70 days, the females will hear the sound of chirping coming from the banks of the river and she will climb out of the water and dig up the young. It is the job of the babies to get themselves to the water, but their mothers will guard them for several months.
This crocodile came very close to extinction back in the 1970s, but conservation programs have been successful and the numbers of Gharials has increased. Currently, there are approximately 1500 Gharials in the wild. The cause for their depleted numbers is encroachment, which has resulted in a reduced habitat. Today, it is only found in the rivers of India. The red "A" on the below map is the location of a known population of Gharials.
I found what I think is an interesting video for you. If you are not on my WEB site, you may not be able to see the video, so please visit, and don’t be shy, leave a comment or consider to sign up for upcoming posts.
If you would like to learn more about the Gharial, I suggest you visit the following sites:
IUCN = International Union for the Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources
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