Sunday, October 3, 2010

The Gharial

Male Gharial, sporting a large ghara

Species: Gavialis gangeticus (extant) and Siwaliks Gavialis (extinct)
Meaning: derived from Hindi "ghariyal"
Age: Pliocene to now
Location: India and Nepal
Physical Characteristics: up to 6 meters in length, longirostrine (although snouts become shorter and thicker with age) piscivores, possessing laterally flattened tails and webbed hind feet. Males possess "ghara" - a bulbous growth on the tip of the snout - for which they are named.

Modern Conservation Issues
Here at Forgotten Archosaurs, I usually deal with crocs that have long been extinct, but here we have an extant species that is critically in danger of joining those ranks. Gharials once lived in almost every river in India and the surrounding region but are today confined to only about 250 square km in India and Nepal, with the largest breeding population living in the National Chambal River Sanctuary (Whitaker 2007). There has been a fairly steady decline over the past century or so due to hunting and loss of habitat, but the loss of Gharials greatly increased starting in the late 1990s, changing their status from Endangered to Critically Endangered. In 1997, it was estimated that the total number of mature Gharials in the wild was 342 (Sharma and Basu 2004, Maskey 1999). By 2006, that number had decreased to only 182 individuals (Whitaker 2007). This rapid decline was most likely caused by the polluted conditions of the rivers these animals call home, which produced gout-like symptoms leading to death. Breeding and restocking programs exist, but the Gharial is still in serious trouble. To find out more, check out the Gharial Conservation Alliance and the International Reptile Conservation Foundation.

Romulus Whitaker, a leading conservationist, with a young Gharial Australian Freshwater Croc


  1. Susan, It ain't a gharial in the picture (with Rom Whitaker). It's an Australian freshie. Cheers, Rom

  2. Lol. Thanks Rom! I really love the pic though.

  3. Best. Croc. Evar. :) Not that I'm biased.

  4. Ya know, I was going to try to write a little bit about the phylogenetics of the gharial, but after reading those papers you sent me, I ended up more confused than when I started.