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The large Chinese Giant Salamander is a "living fossil," existing since the time of the dinosaurs. This species could seperate into five diffrent species.


Appearance

Chinese Giant Salamanders have great camoulage against rocky river bottoms. It is mottled grayish or greenish and brown, with a long, thick body with four stubby limbs, and a blunt head with tiny eyes (with no eye lids) behind its nostrils. Its tail makes up over half of its body length and its mouth is often bent into a slight, "smug grin." They do not have gills—they absorb oxygen through their porous skin. Their tiny eyes don't see very well, and instead they detect prey by sensing their vibrations in the water. Sensory nodes run along the sides of the Chinese Giant Salamander's body from head to tail, enabling it to detect prey.

The salamanders’ large size and lack of gills likely confine them to fast-flowing rivers, where oxygen is plentiful. An obscured fold of skin along the animals’ flanks increases the surface area of skin through which oxygen can be taken in.

Adults were historically 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) and commonly 3.7 feet (115 centimeters) today. They weigh 110 pounds (50 kilograms). Young are 1.2 inches (3 centimeters) in length at hatching.

Habitat

The Chinese Giant Salamander is endemic to fast-flowing, rocky, mountain rivers and large streams in China.

Life History

Diet

Chinese Giant Salamanders are more active at night, on the prowl for food. They are top predators in their river/stream ecosystem and spend their time sucking up fish, frogs, worms, snails, insects, crayfish, crabs, and even smaller salamanders.

Reproduction

Breeding season is July, August, and September when the water temperature is 68 degrees Fahrenheit (20 degrees Celsius), and they travel upstream. Females lay 400 to 500 eggs in a "string," in an underwater burrow or cavity defended by a male, who fertilizes them externally with milky sperm. He protects and cares for the eggs until they hatch, one to two months later, during icubation period. Larvae develop in the streams, taking food after about a month. There is no parental care.

Their young reach maturity at 5 or 6 years of age, and can reach 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 centimeters) in length.

Behavior

During the day, Chinese Giant Salamanders hole up in underwater hollows and cavities. They can live up to 60 years or more through good care.

Sounds

The Chinese Giant Salamander produces sounds that resemble a baby’s cry, earning it the ironic nickname “baby fish.”

Conservation

Chinese Giant Salamanders, used to be feared in China, are now killed for meat despite laws, making them critically endangered. Water pollution is also affecting this species.

Gallery

Trivia

  • Chinese Giant Salamanders have the longest life span of any amphibian.
  • It is currently the largest amphibian on Earth.
  • All three species in the Cryptobranchidae family (giant salamanders) produce a sticky, white skin secretion that repels predators (except humans).
  • As larvae, Chinese Giant Salamanders have gills, but lose them quite early in life.
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