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Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding

Gharial (Gavialis gangeticus)


  • Primarily a fish eater; also aquatic frogs.
  • Uncommon reports of other food items: soft shell turtles, birds, plant material, small mammals.
  • Young eat tadpoles and invertebrates, in addition to fish.



  • Sit and wait: anterior of body floating or completely submerged; remains motionless waiting for prey.
  • Sweeping search: head and front of body slowly sweeps through the water back and forth looking for prey. Detection facilitated by presence of ISO's 
  • Rapid strike: suddenly, swings snout to the side and grabs a fish in one swift motion. The narrow snout reduces drag in the water, allowing for a quick, whip-like motion.
  • Gastroliths: occasionally swallow small stones (=gastroliths) to assist in grinding up food.

Fish Predator

Gharial with a fish in the back of its jaws

A gharial's thin, pointed teeth help it pierce and grasp its fish prey.

Image credit: © San Diego Zoo Library. All rights reserved.

Page Citations

Thorbjarnarson (1990)
Whitaker & Basu (1982)

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