Chordates •

Chinese giant salamander

(Andrias davidianus)



The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) is one of the largest salamanders and one of the largest amphibians in the world. It is fully aquatic and is endemic to rocky mountain streams and lakes in the Yangtze river basin of central China. Either it or a close relative has been introduced to Kyoto Prefecture in Japan and to Taiwan. It is considered critically endangered in the wild due to habitat loss, pollution, and overcollection, as it is considered a delicacy and used in traditional Chinese medicine. On farms in central China, it is extensively farmed and sometimes bred, although many of the salamanders on the farms are caught in the wild. It has been listed as one of the top-10 "focal species" in 2008 by the Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered project. The Chinese giant salamander is considered to be a "living fossil". Although protected under Chinese law and CITES Appendix I, the wild population has declined by more than an estimated 80% since the 1950s. Although traditionally recognized as one of two living species of Andrias salamander in Asia, the other being the Japanese giant salamander, evidence indicates that the Chinese giant salamander may be composed of at least five cryptic species, further compounding each individual species' endangerment. It has a large head, small eyes, and dark, wrinkly skin. Its flat, broad head has a wide mouth, round, lidless eyes, and a line of paired tubercles that run around its head and throat. Its color is typically dark brown with a mottled or speckled pattern, but it can also be other brownish tones, dark reddish, or black. Albinos, which are white or orange, have been recorded. All species of giant salamanders produce a sticky, white skin secretion that repels predators. The average adult salamander weighs 25–30 kg (55–66 lb) and is 1.15 m (3.8 ft) in length. It can reach up to 50 kg (110 lb) in weight and 1.8 m (5.9 ft) in length, making it the second-largest amphibian species. after the South China giant salamander (Andrias sligoi). The longest recently documented Chinese giant salamander, kept at a farm in Zhangjiajie, was 1.8 m (5.9 ft) in 2007. At 59 kg (130 lb), both this individual, and a 1.4 m (4.6 ft) long, 52 kg (114 lb) individual found in a remote cave in Chongqing in December 2015, surpassed the species' typically reported maximum weight.

Taxonomic tree:

Kingdom: Animalia
Class: Amphibia
News coming your way
The biggest news about our planet delivered to you each day