The gharial (gərēəl)is an odd crocodilian that lives in and around the country of India.  It can be distinguished from crocodiles and alligators by its long, thin snout. Interestingly, as the animal gets older, this snout becomes shorter and wider. At the end of the male’s snout is a  bulb called a ghara  (Indian word meaning “pot”). Gharials are sometimes called gavials because Europeans misread and changed the word “ghara.”rangeIn the wild, the juveniles eat small fish, insects, frogs, and other small animals. The adults can tackle larger fish and the occasional mammal. In order to catch their prey, gharials sweep their snout side to side until an unlucky fish gets in the way. When the gharial feels a fish, it instantly snaps its jaws shut and enjoys the meal. Their teeth are sharp enough to be able to hold onto slippery fish that are trying to get away. The males can get very large, up to 18 feet (5.5 m)! The females are a “small” 13 feet (4 m). Their large size is matched by a large weight of up to 2,200 pounds (977 kg). That’s as much as a small car! During the mating season, December and January (Hey, that’s right now!), the males use the knob at the end of their snout to attract females. A few months later the females lay up to 60 eggs in a hole they dug in the sand. Their eggs are the largest of any of the crocodilians, weighing an average of 6 ounces (160 grams) each, about as much as a medium-sized apple. Around twelve weeks later, during late spring or the summer, the eggs hatch, and the babies begin their life of up to 60 years.

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Photo credits:

  • Gharial-Wikipedia user: Jonathan Zander
  • Gharial range-Wikipedia user:Achim Raschka
  • Mystery animal-public domain

Update: 2/17/14 – added info about aging and changing snout

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