False gavial

False gavial

False gavial information

The False gavial, Tomistoma schlegelii, is a fresh water reptile native to South-Eastern Asia. Just like the Gavial it has a narrow, elongated snout ideal for catching fish and recent studies indicate a closer evolutionary relationship between the Gavial and the False gavial than previously thought.

False gavial taxonomy

Kingdom:      Animalia
Phylum:         Chordata
Class:            Reptilia
Order:           Crocodilia
Family:          Gavialidae
Subfamily:    Tomistominae
Genus:           Tomistoma
Species:         Tomistoma schlegelii

Based on molecular genetic evidence, Janke et al. placed the Gavial and the False gavial in the same family in 2005 – the family Gavialidae. Before that, the False gavial was classed in the family Crocodylidae based on morphology. Strong biochemical and immunological evidence support the placement in Gavialidae, while fossil and morphological evidence suggest a closer relationship with the Crocodylidae.  

False gavial conservation status

Tomistoma schlegelii is listed as Endangered on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.

The estimated wild population consists of less than 2,500 individuals. Available survey data is relatively poor and more research is needed to more accurately assess population size.

The main threats against this species are habitat destruction, primarily in the form of freshwater swamp draining and the removal of surrounding rainforests. The eggs are harvested for human consumption and the skins are fairly valuable on the hide market. Other problems are overfishing and entanglement in fishing nets.
The False gavial is captive bred in Europe and North America. Malaysia and Indonesia is currently taking steps to prevent this species from becoming extinct in the wild, but sustainable management programs are still lacking.

False gavial range

The False gavial is found in Indonesia (Sumatra, Kalimantan, Java, possibly Sulawesi), Malaysia (Malay Peninsula, Borneo), and Vietnam. It used to live in Thailand as well but has not been seen there since 1970.

Fossils found in southern China indicate that the species lived there at some point in the past, but when the extinction took place remains unknown.

False gavial habitat

The False gavial inhabits freshwater rivers, lakes and swamps. It seems to prefer slow moving waters with plenty of vegetative cover and floating plant mats. Reported to use burrows.  

False gavial size and appearance

With its long and narrow snout, the False gavial looks very similar to the Gavial (Gavialis gangeticus) after which it has been named. Juvenile False gavials are dark chocolate brown and both tail and body are adorned with black bands while the jaws features dark blotches. The adult animal retains much of its juvenile coloration.

The largest scientifically measured False gavials are roughly 5 meters (16 feet) long, but this species may potentially grow larger.

False gavial feeding and diet

The long and narrow snout of the False gavial is ideal for catching small fish, but the False gavial actually supplement the fish with quite a array of other prey. In the stomach of False gavials living in Malaysia researchers have found evidence of not only fish but insects, crustaceans and mammals as well. It has been reported in the past to prey on mammals as large as Macaque monkeys.

False gavial breeding

Female False gavials normally attain sexual maturity at a length of 2-3 meters (6.5-10 feet). The mating and nesting seasons of this species remain unknown.

The female will build a mount nest out of dry leaves or peat in which she deposits 20-60 eggs. The nest can reach a height of 60 cm (24 in). Once the nest is finished and the eggs laid, she will leave the nest. As far as we know, False gavials do not carry out any parental care and will not even help the hatchlings out of the mound nest. The eggs are roughly 10 cm (4 in) long and hatch after roughly 90 days. 

False gavial facts

False gavial facts # 1
Tomistoma schlegelii is named after Dutch zoologist H. Schlegel (1804-1884). The genus name Tomistoma is derived from tomos (Greek for "cutting" or "sharp") + stoma (Greek for "mouth") and is a reference to the jaws of this species.

False gavial facts # 2

Within its native range, this species is known under many different names, including Baja Kanulong, Baya Kanulong, Bediai Sampit, Boeaja, Buaja, Buaya, Buaya Jolong-Jolong, Buaya Sapit, Buaya Sampit, Buaya Senjulong, Buaya Sepit, Jolong-Jolong, and Senjulong.

In English, it is chiefly referred to as False gavial, False gharial, Malay gavial, Malay gharial, and Malayan fish crocodile.  

False gavial facts # 3
The False gavial has 76-84 teeth.

False gavial facts # 4
False gavial eggs and hatchlings are preyed upon by a long row of different animals, such as mongooses, reptiles, big cats (civets, leopards, tigers etc), wild pigs, and wild dogs.


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