Gharial

A truly remarkable crocodilian on which rides the holy river Ganges

Found exclusively in the tropical river ecosystems of South Asia, particularly in countries such as Nepal, Pakistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and predominantly India. Gharials stand out among their crocodilian relatives due to their slender, elongated snouts, specially adapted for catching small prey like fish.

One of the most striking features of gharials is the presence of a prominent knob or bulb at the tip of the male’s snout, known as the narial excrescence. This knob serves a dual purpose: it acts as a visual display during courtship rituals and also plays a crucial role in producing a distinctive buzzing sound, which is used to attract mates. These courtship displays and vocalizations are essential for reproductive success and mate selection among gharials.

In addition to their unique morphology and courtship behavior, gharials are noteworthy for their impressive size. They are one of the largest crocodilians, with adult males reaching lengths of up to 6 meters (20 feet) or more. Despite their formidable size, gharials primarily feed on small fish, using their specialized snouts to snatch prey from the water swiftly.

Gharials hold significant cultural and religious significance in South Asia, particularly in regions where they are found. In Hindu mythology, gharials are often associated with the goddess Ganga, the personification of the sacred Ganges River. They are revered as symbols of purity and are believed to embody the spirit of the river itself.

Distribution

Country
Population est.
Status
Year
Comments
Bangladesh
Probably extinct 1980s
Bhutan
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
India
2017
Chambal and Girwa rivers
Myanmar
Official estimate
EX
Extinct locally
Nepal
2017
Reintroduction failed
Pakistan
Official estimate
EX
Extinct 1985

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Terrestrial / Aquatic

Altricial / Precocial

Polygamous / Monogamous

Dimorphic (size) / Monomorphic

Active: Diurnal / Nocturnal

Social behavior: Solitary / Pack / Herd

Diet: Carnivore / Herbivore / Omnivore / Piscivorous / Insectivore

Migratory: Yes / No

Domesticated: Yes / No

Dangerous: Yes / No