Organism of the Day: Chinese Giant Salamander
Amphibians used to be the dominant form of animal life on the planet, before reptiles took over. Most of the great amphibians died offf over the hundreds of millions of years since thier reign, and none we have today are as large as their giants. There is, however, a few representatives who could could give someone a glimpse of a long forgotten past.
This is Andrias davidianus, the Chinese Giant Salamander. It is the largest amphibian in the world. Among the largest recorded lengths is 180cm (5.9feet) feet, although they average around 100cm (3.2 feet) nowadays. They live in mountain streams, including the Yellow, Pearl, and Yangtze, among others. They breed in August through September, with the female laying up to 500 eggs in an underwater cave. The male then protects this cave for 50 to 60 days until the salamanders hatch. Their population is on the decline, due to a host of factors including habitat loss and overhunting. Large ones are often found and eaten as a delicacy and used in folk medicine, so overtime their population has begun to favor smaller salamanders. It is one of the top ten EDGE (Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered) species. This means that if this one species dies, a unique evolutionary line, and a disproportionate amount of biodiversity, would be lost. This should serve as a reminder to all of us about how special even a single species can be. The situation isn’t as dire for the only other member of it’s genus, A. japonica, the Giant Japanese Salamander. This slightly smaller cousin also lives in the mountain streams of Northern Kyushu and Western Honshu Islands of Japan. It eats fish, crustaceans, and insects, and is used occasionally in folk medicine.
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