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Gavialis gangeticus (GMELIN, 1789)

IUCN Red List - Gavialis gangeticus - Critically Endangered, CR

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Higher TaxaGavialidae, Crocodylia, (crocodiles)
Common NamesE: Gharial
G: Gangesgavial 
SynonymLacerta gangetica GMELIN in LINNAEUS 1789: 1057
Crocodilus gavial BONNATERRE 1789: 34
Crocodylus gangeticus — MEYER 1795: 20
Crocodilus longirostris SCHNEIDER 1801: 160
Crocodilus arctirostris DAUDIN 1802: 393 (nom. subst.)
Crocodilus tenuirostris CUVIER 1807: 66
Rkamphostoma [sic] tenuirostre — WAGLER 1830: 141 (fide D & B 1836)
Gavialis gangeticus — GRAY 1831: 56
Gavialis gangeticus — DUMÉRIL & BIBRON 1836: 134
Gavialis gangeticus — WERMUTH & MERTENS 1977: 150
Gavialis gangeticus — KING & BURKE 1989 
DistributionBangladesh, Bhutan, Myanmar (= Burma), N India (Madhya Pradesh etc), Nepal, Pakistan

Type locality: Senegal and Ganges; restricted to Ganges River by Wermuth (1953: 504)  
Reproductionoviparous. Exhibits temperature‐dependent sex determination (TSD) fide Cornejo-Páramo et al. 2020 (and references therein). 
TypesHolotype: unlocated (KING& BURKE 1989: 14) 
DiagnosisDiagnosis: Gharials are easily recognized by their unique long and narrow snouts with 27 to 29 upper teeth and 25 or 26 lower teeth on each side. All teeth of similar size, except rear 8-10 and front 2-3 pairs (compared to other crocodiles which have teeth of heterogeneous size). 
CommentExtremely threatened; there may be only a few hundred specimens in the wild (Reptilia, Münster, 11 (5): 7).

Similar species: only Tomistoma schlegelii, but with non-oerlapping range.

Type species: Lacerta gangetica GMELIN in LINNAEUS 1789: 1057 is the type species of the genus Gavialis OPPEL 1811, the type genus of the family Gavialidae Adams 1854: 20. The preferred citation for the order name of crocodilians, by analogy with Article 40.2 of the Code relating to family-group names, is Crocodylia Deraniyagala, 1939 (1830) (fide Savage 2017).

Literature: for an extensive collection of literature on gharials see Tarun Nair’s website at (see also under links below). 
EtymologyNamed after the type locality. 
  • Acharya, Krishna Prasad; Bed Kumar Khadka, Shant R. Jnawali, Sabita Malla, Santosh Bhattarai, Eric Wikramanayake, and Michael Köhl 2017. Conservation and Population Recovery of Gharials (Gavialis gangeticus) in Nepal. Herpetologica 73 (2): 129-135 - get paper here
  • Adams, Connor S., Ryberg, Wade A., Hibbitts, Toby J., Pierce, Brian L., Pierce, Josh B. and Rudolph, D. Craig 2017. Evaluating effectiveness and cost of time-lapse triggered camera trapping techniques to detect terrestrial squamate diversity. Herpetological Review 48 (1): 44-48 - get paper here
  • Anderson, A. 1875. An account of the eggs and young of the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus). Proc. Zool. Soc. London 1875 (2) - get paper here
  • Avadhani, R. 2006. The gharial, Gavialis gangeticus, gentle crocodile of India. Reptilia (GB) (47): 53-56 - get paper here
  • Barton, C.G. 1927. The occurrence of the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) in Burma. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc. 33: 450-451 - get paper here
  • Bauer A M; Gunther R 1992. A preliminary report on the reptile fauna of the Kingdom of Bhutan with the description of a new species of scincid lizard (Reptilia: Scincidae). Asiatic Herpetological Research 4: 23-36 - get paper here
  • Bhattarai S., Gurung A., Lamichhane BR., Regmi R., Dhungana M., Kumpakha B. and Subedi N. 2020. Amphibians and Reptiles of Chure Range, Nepal. President Chure Terai-Madhesh Conservation Development Board and National Trust for Nature Conservation, Khumaltar, Lalitpur, Nepal
  • Bonnaterre, P.J. 1789. Tableau encyclopédique et méthodique des trois règnes de la nature, . . . Erpétologie. Panckoucke, Paris, xxviii+71 pp. (+ plates + index) - get paper here
  • Brochu, Christopher A. 1997. Morphology, Fossils, Divergence Timing, and the Phylogenetic Relationships of Gavialis. Systematic Biology 46 (3): 49-522 - get paper here
  • Bustard, H.R. 1980. Status of the Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus Gmelin) in Bhutan. J. Bombay nat. Hist. Soc. 77: 150 - get paper here
  • Bustard, H.R. 1980. Extinction of the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) in Bhutan. British Journal of Herpetology 6 (2): 68
  • Cornejo-Páramo, P., Lira-Noriega, A., Ramírez-Suástegui, C. et al. 2020. Sex determination systems in reptiles are related to ambient temperature but not to the level of climatic fluctuation. BMC Evol Biol 20: 103 - get paper here
  • Cuvier, G. 1807. Sur les différentes especes de crocodiles vivans et sur leurs caracteres distinctifs. Ann. Natl. Mus. Hist. Nat. Paris 10: 8-86. - get paper here
  • Cuvier, G. 1831. The Animal Kingdom arranged in conformity with its organization, by the Baron Cuvier, ... with additional descriptions of all the species hitherto named, and of many not before noticed, by Edward Griffith... and others. Vol. 9. Whittaker, Treacher and Co., London, 481 pp. - get paper here
  • Das, Indraneil 2003. Growth of Knowledge on the Reptiles of India, with an Introduction to Systematics, Taxonomy and Nomenclature. J. Bombay Nat. Hist. Soc. 100 (2-3): 446-502 - get paper here
  • Daudin, F. M. 1801. Histoire Naturelle, Générale et Particulière des Reptiles; ouvrage faisant suit à l'Histoire naturell générale et particulière, composée par Leclerc de Buffon; et rédigee par C.S. Sonnini, membre de plusieurs sociétés savantes. Vol. 2. F. Dufart, Paris, 432 pp. [publication date fide Harper 1940] - get paper here
  • Duméril, A.M. C. and G. Bibron. 1836. Erpetologie Générale ou Histoire Naturelle Complete des Reptiles. Vol. 3. Libr. Encyclopédique Roret, Paris, 528 pp. - get paper here
  • Gatesy, J.; Amato, G. 1992. Sequence similarity of 12S ribosomal segment of mitochondrial DNAs of gharial and false gharial. Copeia 1992 (): 241-244. - get paper here
  • Gatesy, John; Amato, George; Norell, Mark; DeSalle, Rob; Hayashi, Cheryl. 2003. Combined Support for Wholesale Taxic Atavism in Gavialine Crocodylians. Systematic Biology 52(3):403-422. - get paper here
  • Gmelin, J.F. 1789. Caroli a Linné Systema naturae. 13. ed., Tom 1 Pars 3. G. E. Beer, Lipsiae. 1033-1516 pp. - get paper here
  • GRAMENTZ, D. 2012. Zum Schreckruf von Gavialis gangeticus (GMELIN, 1789). Sauria 34 (1): 21-26 - get paper here
  • Gray, J. E. 1831. Synopsis Reptilium or short descriptions of the species of reptiles. Part I: Cataphracta, tortoises, crocodiles, and enaliosaurians. Treuttel, Wurz & Co., London, 85 pp. - get paper here
  • Harshman, John; Huddleston, Christopher J.; Bollback, Jonathan P.; Parsons, Thomas J.; Braun, Michael J. 2003. True and False Gharials: A Nuclear Gene Phylogeny of Crocodylia. Systematic Biology 52(3):386-402. - get paper here
  • Hone D, Mallon JC, Hennessey P, Witmer LM. 2020. Ontogeny of a sexually selected structure in an extant archosaur Gavialis gangeticus (Pseudosuchia: Crocodylia) with implications for sexual dimorphism in dinosaurs. PeerJ 8:e9134 - get paper here
  • Iijima, M. and Kobayashi, Y. 2019. Mosaic nature in the skeleton of East Asian crocodylians fills the morphological gap between “Tomistominae” and Gavialinae. Cladistics, 35: 623-632. - get paper here
  • Janke, Axel; Gullbert, Anette; Hughes, Sandrine; Aggarwal, Ramesh K.; Arnason, Ulfur. 2005. Mitogenomic analyses place the gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) on the crocodile tree and provide Pre-K/T divergence times for most crocodilians. Journal of Molecular Evolution 61(5): 620-626. - get paper here
  • Kästle , W., Rai, K. & Schleich, H.H. 2013. FIELD GUIDE to Amphibians and Reptiles of Nepal. ARCO-Nepal e.V., 625 pp. - get paper here
  • King, F. Wayne & Burke, Russel L. 1989. Crocodilian, Tuatara, and Turtles Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference. [type catalogue] Assoc. Syst. Coll., Washington, DC, xxii + 216 pp.
  • Ko Ko, Win, Khin Myo Myo, Lay Lay Khaing, Kalyar and Bill Holmstrom 2006. Crocodiles in Myanmar: Species diversity, historic accounts, and current population status and conservation. Herpetological Natural History 10 (1):77-89.
  • Lenz, Norbert 2012. Von Schmetterlingen und Donnerdrachen - Natur und Kultur in Bhutan. Karlsruher Naturhefte 4, Naturkundemuseum Karlsruhe, 124 pp.
  • Maddock, Simon T. 2010. Gavialis gangeticus (Indian Gharial): Behaviour. Herpetological Bulletin (113) - get paper here
  • Manhas, Amit; Rajni Raina, and Ashwani Wanganeo 2018. Reptilian diversity of the Bhopal Region in the State of Madhya Pradesh in central India. IRCF Reptiles & Amphibians 25 (2): 104–114 - get paper here
  • Meyer, F.A.A. 1795. Synopsis Reptilium, novam ipsorum sistens generum methodum, nec non Gottingensium huius ordinis animalium enumerationem. Vandenhoeck und Ruprecht, Göttingen, 32 pp [for current names see Rösler & Böhme 2021] - get paper here
  • Oppel, M. 1811. Die Ordnungen, Familien und Gattungen der Reptilien, als Prodrom einer Naturgeschichte derselben. J. Lindauer, München. - get paper here
  • PAN, TAO; JIA-SHUN MIAO, HUA-BIN ZHANG, PENG YAN, PING-SHIN LEE, XIN-YUE JIANG, JIA-HUI OUYANG, YOU-PENG DENG, BAO-WEI ZHANG & XIAO-BING WU. 2021. Near-complete phylogeny of extant Crocodylia (Reptilia) using mitogenome-based data. Zoological Journal of the Linnean Society 191(4): 1075–1089. - get paper here
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  • Savage, Jay M. 2017. Crocodilian confusion: The order-group names Crocdyli, Crocodilia, Crocodylia, and the authorship of the family-group name Crocodilidae or Crocodylidae. Herpetological Review 48 (1): 110-114 - get paper here
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  • Singh, L.A.K.;Bustard, H.R. 1982. Geographical distribution of the gharial, Gavialis gangeticus (Gmelin) in Orissa, India. British Journal of Herpetology 6 (7): 259-260
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