Sunday, January 29, 2023

Tail-less Tomistoma

The Tomistoma schlegelii or the false gharial is native to Malaya and Indonesia, where its habitats have been under threat due to spread of oil palm plantations and clandestine gold prospecting. It is estimated that there are less than 10,000 of these animals in the wild, which places it in the 'Vulnerable' category of the IUCN's Red List. 

If you are in Chennai, you don't have to go out to Indonesia to see a Tomistoma. A short drive, to the Madras Crocodile Bank is all that it takes. It was earlier believed that this was similar to the gharial because of its thin snout; but closer observation showed that, unlike the gharial's evenly slender snout, the Tomistoma's broadens at the end, placing it closer to the true crocodiles than the gharials. That was further strengthened by recent findings that the Tomistoma's diet comprises more variety than just fish, which is the only food for the gharial. 

Notice anything odd about this animal? Yes, you're correct, it doesn't have a tail. No, not because that is how it has evolved, but because this female got into a fight a few years ago and lost her tail. She seems to have learnt to live without it - possibly because it is much easier to do without a tail in captivity than in the wild!

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