WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST AMPHIBIAN?




If you have a pond in your garden then the chances are that you would have come across a frog, maybe even a toad. And if you are really lucky, maybe one of our native species of newt! But as amazing as they are, our native species of amphibians are relatively small, but you don't have to go too far in order to see something a little bit bigger as most pet shops will have salamanders and axolotls on display for sale.

Be that as it may, even these are small as amphibians of the world go. So, just what is the biggest amphibian in the world?

The Chinese giant salamander - Andrias davidianus, is the largest salamander in the world, reaching a maximum length of around 180 cm (6 ft), although it rarely (if ever) reaches that size today. Native to rocky mountain streams and lakes in China, it is considered critically endangered due to habitat loss, pollution, and over-collecting.Why?  Because it is considered a delicacy and used in traditional Chinese medicine. There are records of Chinese giant salamanders in Taiwan, but this is likely to be the result of non-native introductions.

As beautiful and fascinating as these creatures are, their risk of extinction means that they are now listed as one of the top-10 'focal species' by the Evolutionary Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) project.

Chinese giant salamander facts

The Chinese giant salamander has a large head, small eyes and dark and wrinkled skin. It is one of only two extant species in the genus Andrias, the other being the slightly smaller, but otherwise very similar Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus).

The Chinese giant salamander feeds on crabs, shrimps, aquatic insects, frogs, and fish. Their prey is caught by snapping it with the side of the mouth. It has very poor eyesight, and therefore depends on special sensory nodes that run in a line on the creature's body, from head to tail. They are capable of sensing the slightest vibrations around them with the help of these nodes.

These salamanders travel upstream to breed in the months of August and September. The males compete viciously until one male is established as a 'den master'. The den master is then responsible of overseeing the mating area, allowing females and other males in to spawn. A single female can produce around 500 eggs and these will be lain in an underwater breeding cavity guarded by the den master.

After the eggs are fertilized, the den master guards the eggs - and subsequent young - for approximately six months. When the young hatch they are known to hunt and feed in groups rather than individually.
 
Giant salamanders are known to live up to 80 years and can weigh as much as 25–30 kg (55-66 lb) with a length of 1.15 m (3.8 ft). 

For related articles click onto the following links:
BBC NEWS: Giant salamanders: Meet the world's biggest amphibian
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST FROG?
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S MOST POISONOUS FROG
WHAT IS THE WORLD'S LARGEST REPTILE?

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