gavial (gāˈvēəl) [key], large reptile of the crocodile order, found in rivers from Pakistan to Myanmar. Also called gharial, the gavial ( Gavialis gangeticus ) is distinguished from the crocodiles and alligators by its extremely long, slender, parallel-sided snout. It feeds chiefly on fish, which it catches with side-to-side sweeps of the head. The young are hatched from eggs buried in the riverbank. Gavials are not known to attack humans. They average 12 to 15 ft (3.7–4.6 m) in length, with some individuals over 20 ft (6.1 m) long. The so-called false gavial is actually a narrow-snouted crocodile. The true gavial is classified in the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Reptilia, order Crocodilia, family Gavialidea.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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