Crocodile vs. Gharial

What's the Difference?

Crocodiles and gharials are both large, aquatic reptiles that belong to the Crocodylidae family. However, they have distinct physical characteristics that set them apart. Crocodiles have a broad snout, with teeth visible even when their mouths are closed, giving them a menacing appearance. On the other hand, gharials have a long, thin snout with interlocking teeth, which are ideal for catching fish. Another noticeable difference is their size, with crocodiles being generally larger and heavier than gharials. Additionally, gharials have a unique feature - males possess a bulbous growth on the tip of their snout, known as a ghara. Despite these differences, both crocodiles and gharials are formidable predators and play important roles in their respective ecosystems.


Photo by Rae Wallis on Unsplash
Scientific NameCrocodylusGavialis gangeticus
HabitatFreshwaterFast-flowing rivers
SizeCan reach up to 5-6 metersCan reach up to 4-5 meters
Snout ShapeV-shaped snoutLong, thin snout
TeethInterlocking teeth visible when mouth is closedThin, needle-like teeth
Feeding BehaviorOpportunistic predators, eat a variety of preySpecialized fish-eaters
Conservation StatusVulnerableCritically Endangered
Photo by Mochamad Arief on Unsplash

Further Detail


Crocodiles and gharials are two fascinating reptiles that belong to the Crocodylidae family. While they share some similarities, they also have distinct attributes that set them apart. In this article, we will explore the characteristics of both crocodiles and gharials, including their physical appearance, habitat, behavior, diet, and conservation status.

Physical Appearance

Crocodiles are large, semi-aquatic reptiles with a robust body and a broad snout. They have a V-shaped snout, which is wider towards the base and tapers towards the tip. Their teeth are visible even when their mouths are closed. Crocodiles have a rough, scaly skin that provides excellent camouflage in their natural habitat. On the other hand, gharials have a slender body with a long, thin snout. Their snout is narrow and elongated, resembling a thin needle. Gharials have long, sharp teeth, but unlike crocodiles, their teeth are not visible when their mouths are closed. Their skin is smoother compared to crocodiles, with a lighter coloration.


Crocodiles are found in various habitats, including freshwater rivers, lakes, swamps, and brackish estuaries. They are highly adaptable and can thrive in both saltwater and freshwater environments. Crocodiles are distributed across Africa, Asia, Australia, and the Americas. On the other hand, gharials are primarily found in the Indian subcontinent. They inhabit freshwater rivers, specifically those with sandy banks and deep pools. Gharials prefer calmer waters and are often found in close proximity to fish-rich areas.


Crocodiles are known for their aggressive and territorial behavior. They are opportunistic predators and are capable of ambushing their prey near the water's edge. Crocodiles are also known to engage in social behaviors, such as basking in groups or engaging in courtship displays during the breeding season. Gharials, on the other hand, are relatively less aggressive compared to crocodiles. They are primarily fish-eaters and have a more specialized feeding behavior. Gharials are known for their unique "ghara" or bulbous growth on the tip of their snout, which is used to produce a buzzing sound during courtship.


Crocodiles have a diverse diet and are opportunistic feeders. They are apex predators and can consume a wide range of prey, including fish, birds, mammals, and even other reptiles. Crocodiles are known for their powerful jaws and can exert tremendous force while capturing and killing their prey. Gharials, on the other hand, have a specialized diet consisting mainly of fish. Their long, slender snout and sharp teeth are perfectly adapted for catching fish underwater. Gharials use their snout to create minimal disturbance in the water while hunting, allowing them to approach fish more stealthily.

Conservation Status

Crocodiles have faced significant threats in the past due to habitat loss, illegal hunting, and pollution. However, conservation efforts have led to the recovery of several crocodile species, and many are now listed as least concern or of lower conservation concern. Some species, such as the saltwater crocodile, still face conservation challenges due to habitat destruction and human-wildlife conflict. Gharials, on the other hand, are critically endangered. Their population has drastically declined due to habitat loss, sand mining, and accidental entanglement in fishing nets. Conservation organizations are working tirelessly to protect and restore gharial habitats and ensure their survival.


In conclusion, crocodiles and gharials are both fascinating reptiles with unique attributes. While crocodiles have a robust body, a V-shaped snout, and a diverse diet, gharials have a slender body, a thin snout, and a specialized fish-based diet. Crocodiles are adaptable and can be found in various habitats worldwide, while gharials are primarily restricted to the Indian subcontinent. Despite their differences, both species play crucial roles in their ecosystems and require conservation efforts to ensure their long-term survival.

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