Physical characteristics

Gharials have the longest snout of all crocodilians and are among the largest. Males average 13-15 ft (4-4.5 m) with a maximum recorded length of over 19.7 ft (6 m). Females average 11.5-13 ft (3.5-4 m). Adults are dark or brownish olive; hatchlings are grayish brown with five irregular transverse bands on the body and nine on the tail. They are white or yel-

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). (Illustration by Brian Cressman)

lowish white on the underside. The body form is sleek, the scales smooth, and the head is well differentiated from the body. Gavialis is unique among crocodilians in that it is the only species to display visible sexual dimorphism: mature males develop a cartilaginous knob, or narial excresence, on the tip of the snout, females do not. This knob creates a buzzing sound during exhalation, a social signal during courtship. It has no other known function. The most aquatic of all crocodilians, Gavialis do not migrate long distances overland, and adults are unable to lift their bodies off the ground.

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