Hey guys, who wants to learn? What?...Nobody? What if I promise to teach you about a really cool animal? Eh, piqued your interest eh? From the rather vague suggestion that KellyW proposed and her subsequent permission for me to choose a particular species from the order Crocodylia, I now present to you the often unappreciated....
Gharial (AKA gavial, Indian gharial, Indian gavial, Fish-eating crocodile, Long-nosed crocodile) Gavialis gangeticus
Everyone knows alligators and crocodiles, but no one ever mentions their cousin. Well, let's see if I can change that a bit.
Elegant, wouldn't you say?
Big. How big? Males are about 13-16ft (~4-5m) with a record length of nearly 20ft(~6m). Females are a tad smaller, 11–13 ft (~3.3–4m). They can weigh up to 2200 lbs (998 kg). They are the among the largest crocodilians.
Adults are a dark brown or olive color. Hatchlings are grayish brown with irregular bands on their body and tail. Both adults and young are yellow or white on the underside. The body is sleek and the scales are smooth which give it great agility in the water, which is good because it is the most aquatic crocodilian. Adults are unable to lift their body off the ground and therefore are incapable of walking, they are only able to "belly slide." The tail is also more laterally flattened than other crocodilians giving it greater locomotion than other species. In fact, it is the fastest and most nimble crocodilian in the water.
The snout is very long and narrow distinguishing it from either alligators or crocodiles very easily. The teeth are interlocking and needlelike. Males possess a bulbous growth(a narial excresence, if you will) made of cartilage on the tip of their snout giving this species sexual dimorphism, which is to say there is obvious physical difference between males and females. Sexual dimorphism is actually quite rare in crocodilians.
Notice his lovely knob.
Asia: specifically India, Pakistan, and Nepal. Their distribution is not continuous. Some isolated individuals have been reported from Bangladesh and Bhutan.
Gharials are normally found in deep, fast flowing rivers and prefer to live in junctions and bends where pools are deep and the current is reduced. Flat, sandy banks are used for basking and nesting sites.
Piscivorous. Fish, fish, fish, and more fish. Their unique jaw shape and teeth are perfect for catching and holding on to slippery fish. They have also been known to eat carrion. Young eat insects and other small creatures. They also consume hard objects to be used as gastroliths, normally stones but jewelry has also been eaten, to aid in digestion or buoyancy.
They are incapable of killing any large prey. Their thin, fragile jaws make it impossible for them to attempt to kill larger animals. Humans, included. So while they are large and intimidating, they pose little threat to people...or anything besides fish, really. Prey is either caught through "sitting and waiting" or actively hunting. Thrashing and snapping from side to side with those thin jaws prove very effective as you can see below.
Diurnal. They rarely venture far from water because they're unable to move effectively on land. Gharials are social creatures, except when breeding season comes around. Males will challenge each other for territory by venturing to shallow water where an interesting competition begins. While laying parallel to each other, males will raise their heads far out of the water and attempt push one another off balance. It can get a little violent and progress into "snout-bashing" and biting. Females become territorial while guarding nests.
Courtship and mating occur in December to January and nesting from March to May. Courtship consists of the male using that unique bulb on his nose to make buzzing or humming sounds, blowing bubbles, and as a visual lure. Sexy, really.
Females select nest sites at least 5 ft (1.5m) above water level, and may dig trial nests before the real deal. Eggs are deposited and buried in the nest. The clutch varies greatly in relation to the size of the female, with the average being between 30 and 50 eggs. Incubation period is around 90 days. Temperature dictates the size and sex of hatchlings as well as the overall length of incubation. Females will guard nests from predators and help dig up the young, but will not carry them in her mouth to the water because the jaw is unsuitable for it. Males may also protect the young. However, hatching mortality is still high due to monsoons and predators. Males mature at about 11.5 ft(3.5m) at the age of 15, when the narial excresence becomes large and rounded.(Always the case, eh fellas? ) Females mature at 10 ft(3m), as young as eight years old. Lifespan is 40-60 years.
Mom keeping an eye on the kids while they swim.
Recently this species has moved from Endangered to Critically Endangered on the 2007 Red List of endangered species of animals and plants issued by the World Conservation Union.
There are efforts to raise gharials in captive breeding operations where they are released into the wild, unfortunately it's not going as well as expected and numbers in the wild are very low. In India it is estimated that there are only around 1500 animals in the wild.
Males have been(and are) hunted in the belief that powder from its dried snout is an aphrodisiac.
That bulb on the male's snout is called a "ghara". It's an Indian word which means "pot" because of the shape. Frankly, I don't see it myself, but whatever.
It has between 106 to 110 teeth.
The fossil history of the Gavialoidea (consists of only two surviving species, the false gharial being the other) is quite well known, with the earliest examples diverging from the other crocodilians in the late Cretaceous. One species, Rhamphosuchus crassidens of India, are believed to have been able to grow 50ft(~15m) or more.
And there you have it.
See ya next time!