Photo of the Day #27: Female Gavial


Today's photo comes from the National Zoo in Washington D.C., the only place where I have seen the Gavial (Gavialis gangeticus) in captivity. This crocodylian is one of the most endangered in the world, and the National Zoo has a male and female pair (and I can only assume that the zoo staff hopes the two will breed). The above photograph is the female, males of the species having a bulbous growth or "ghara" on the tip of their snout. Outside of being a signal as to which sex an adult belongs, the ghara is also used in vocalizations the male makes and blowing bubbles during mating displays, although the male at this institution was submerged and I could not get a photograph.

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Unfortunately, I think the male has issues with his gender-specific parts and he's unlikely to be breeding.

By Anonymous (not verified) on 04 Nov 2007 #permalink

Ah, aside from Australia's saltwater crocodile, this is my favorite modern crurotarsian! That jaw is incredibly weak (structurally), and I've heard many a time that if a gavial bites something that it can't crack, its jaw, instead, will snap.

Ah yes... one critter with so many names I have no idea which one to use... Gavial? Gharial? Aargh...

One thing that intrigues me is that crocodilians breed relatively easily in captivity, and don't present the same problems with reintroduction that large predatory mammals do, and that has no doubt helped save many of them from extinction. Yet quite a number of species (the gharial among them) still remain quite seriously endangered. Goes to show that all the captive breeding going on is kind of moot if steps are not taken to address the threats to the wild populations in the first place.