Chinese Giant Salamander
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The Chinese giant salamander lives in the streams of China, most commonly in the forested hills of the southern, southwestern and central regions. They prefer elevations below 1500 meters. Individuals have been found in Taiwan, most likely due to introductions.
The salamanders spend their lives in the water on their own, except during mating season in the fall, when nest sites become a gathering point for reproduction. During this time, females enter cavities holding nests that have been cleaned by the males and lay between 400 and 500 eggs, held together by a string. The eggs are fertilized externally by the male who also guards the nest until the offspring hatch nearly two months later.
The estimated life expectancy of a Chinese giant salamander is around 20 years, though an individual in captivity had a recorded lifespan of 52 years.
Primarily nocturnal, the Chinese giant salamander is carnivorous, eating fish, smaller salamanders, worms, insects, crayfish and snails.
The population of Chinese giant salamander has decreased dramatically over the past several decades, so much so that the creature is considered Critically Endangered by the IUCN.
The Chinese giant salamander is the largest amphibian in the world, sometimes measuring nearly six feet in length and weighing close to 110 pounds. The yin yang symbol might very well have originated in the image of two of these creatures intertwined. The salamanders have been given the nickname “wa wa yu”, or “baby fish,” because their distress call sounds like a baby crying. They breathe through their skin.
Why Are They Endangered?
The Chinese giant salamander has suffered catastrophic reduction to its population due to human activities such as hunting and habitat destruction. Consumption by humans as a culinary delicacy has had the most deleterious effect on the survival of this species.