Chinese giant salamander
|Chinese giant salamander|
|Chinese giant salamander at Prague Zoo|
Megalobatrachus davidianus (Reviewed by Liu, 1950)
|Chinese giant salamander|
The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) is one of the largest
The Chinese giant salamander is considered to be a "
A 2018 study of
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
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.
The giant salamander is known to vocalize, making barking, whining, hissing, or crying sounds. Some of these vocalizations bear a striking resemblance to the crying of a young human child, and as such, it is known in the Chinese language as the "infant fish" (娃娃鱼 / 鲵 - Wáwáyú/ ní).
The Chinese giant salamander has been recorded feeding on insects,
It has very poor eyesight, so it depends on special sensory nodes that run in a line on the body from head to tail. It is capable of sensing the slightest vibrations around it with the help of these nodes. Based on a captive study, most activity is from the earlier evening to the early night. Most individuals stop feeding at water temperatures above 20 °C (68 °F) and feeding ceases almost entirely at 28 °C (82 °F). Temperatures of 35 °C (95 °F) are lethal to Chinese giant salamanders.
Adult Chinese giant salamanders and maturing Chinese giant salamanders with nonexistent or shrinking gill slits have developed a system for bidirectional flow suction feeding under water. They start by moving to their prey very slowly, then once close enough to them the Chinese giant salamander abruptly gapes its mouth open. The gaping motion of their mouth causes a great increase in the velocity of the water straight ahead of them compared to water coming in from the sides of their mouth. This is possible because of their large, wide, and flat upper and lower jaws. This process causes the prey to shoot back into their mouths as well as a copious amount of water. They then close their mouths, but leave a small gap between their upper and lower lips so that the captured water can escape.
The Chinese giant salamander catches its prey on land with an asymmetrical bite, in such a way that the force created by their jaws will be maximized in the anterior region where their prey is located. After capture they use their bite to subdue and kill their prey, both on land and in water. They are missing a bone which usually lies along the upper cheek region of most salamanders, this gives them a much stronger bite force. The bite force of the adult Chinese giant salamander is much stronger than the bite force of the maturing Chinese giant salamander, this is due to differences in cranial structure. 
Chinese giant salamanders esophaguses are made up of four different layers, one of which being a strong muscular tissue used to help move food through to the stomach. The outer most layer has ciliated cells that move mucous from mucous glands over the surface of the esophagus to lubricate it and reduce friction from large foods such as whole crabs. The ciliated structure and flexibility of the Chinese giant salamander's esophagus is hypothesized to be the reason why it is capable of swallowing such large foods.
Chinese giant salamanders are also capable of fasting for several years if they need too. This is possible because of their metabolic reserves as well as their liver, which is capable of up regulating and down regulating certain proteins according to how long they have been fasting for.
Breeding and lifecycle
Both sexes maintain a territory, averaging 40 m3 (1,400 cu ft) for males and 30 m3 (1,100 cu ft) for females. The reproductive cycle is initiated when the water temperature reaches 20 °C (68 °F) and mating occurs between July and September. The female lays 400–500 eggs in an underwater breeding cavity, which is guarded by the male until the eggs hatch after 50–60 days. They have a variety of different courtship displays including knocking bellies, leaning side-to-side, riding, mouth-to-mouth posturing, chasing, rolling over, inviting, and cohabiting. When laid, the eggs measure 7–8 mm (0.28–0.31 in) in diameter, but they increase to about double that size by absorbing water. When hatching, the larvae are about 3 cm (1.2 in) long and external gills remain until a length of about 20 cm (8 in) at an age of 3 years.The external gills start to slowly decrease in size around 9 to 16 months, the rate of this phenomenon occurs in relation to the rate of dissolved oxygen, breeding density, water temperatures, and individual differences. Maturity is reached at an age of 5 to 6 years and a length of 40–50 cm (16–20 in). The maximum age reached by Chinese giant salamanders is unknown, but it is at least 60 years based on captive individuals. Undocumented claims have been made of 200-year-old Chinese giant salamanders, but these are considered unreliable.
Distribution and habitat
The Chinese giant salamander
Finds in Taiwan may be the result of introduction. Chinese giant salamanders have been introduced to the Kyoto Prefecture in Japan where they present a threat to the native Japanese giant salamander, as the two hybridize.
The Chinese giant salamander is entirely aquatic and lives in rocky hill streams and lakes with clear water. It typically lives in dark muddy or rocky crevices along the banks. It is usually found in forested regions at altitudes of 100 to 1,500 m (300 to 4,900 ft), with most records between 300 and 800 m (1,000 and 2,600 ft). There is an isolated population at an altitude of 4,200 m (13,800 ft) in Qinghai (Tibetan Plateau), but its taxonomic position is uncertain and the site likely does not support giant salamanders anymore due to pollution.
The salamanders prefer to live in streams of small width (on average, 6.39 m or 21 ft across), quick flow, and little depth (on average, 1.07 m or 3 ft 6 in deep). Water temperature varies depending on season, with typical range at low elevation sites being from 10 to 25 °C (50 to 77 °F) and at high elevation sites from 3 to 20 °C (37 to 68 °F). Although they prefer to have quick flow in the stream, the burrows in which they lay their eggs often have much slower flow. Furthermore, their habitat often possesses very rocky, irregular stream beds with a lot of gravel and small rocks as well as some vegetation. Chinese giant salamanders are also known from subterranean rivers. As populations in aboveground rivers and lakes are more vulnerable to poaching, there are some parts of China where only the subterranean populations remain.
Very large numbers are being
In zoos and aquariums
As of early 2008,
As of 2019,
Since May 2014, 33 Chinese giant salamanders, including three adults, have been held in Prague Zoo. The main attraction is the largest individual in Europe, which is 155 cm (5 ft 1 in) long.
Decline in population
In the past, the Chinese giant salamander was fairly common and widespread in China.
In recent years populations have also declined with an
Its natural range has suffered in the past few decades due to habitat loss and
The Chinese giant salamander is listed as a critically endangered species. It has experienced a drastic population decline, which is estimated to be more than 80% in the last 3 generations and due to human causes. Human consumption is the main threat to the Chinese giant salamander. They are considered to be a luxury food item and source of traditional medicines in China.
According to a recent study, 90% of the Chinese giant salamanders' habitat was destroyed by the year 2000,
Many efforts have been undertaken to create reserves and faux habitats for the Chinese giant salamander so that they can reproduce without worry of soiled water, but many of these reserves have failed in having a great impact overall due to the massive overhunting of the species. No matter how many members of the species they manage to save through the reserves, the poachers still manage to capture and kill that many more. Although habitat destruction is certainly not assisting in the perpetuation of the species, it is certainly not the biggest obstacle that the Chinese giant salamander faces in its quest to avoid extinction.
Like other amphibians, the Chinese giant salamander is
This section includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. (January 2015)
One of the main reasons that the Chinese giant salamander, Andrias davidianus, has been placed on the critically endangered list by the International Union for Conservation of Nature is overhunting. 75% of native species in China are harvested for food. The salamander is also used for traditional medicinal purposes. In 1989, the Chinese government placed legal protection on the salamander (category II due to its population decline by The Wild Animal Protection Law of China and Appendix I in the Convention of Endangered Species of Wild Fauna.).
But the salamander populations have continued to decline. The domestic demand for salamander meat and body parts greatly exceeds what can sustainably be harvested from the wild. Commercial captive breeding operations so far still rely on the regular introduction of new wild-caught breeding adults, because captive-bred animals have proven difficult to mate. In addition, salamander farms would need to increase their yield manifold before the black-market price of poached salamander drop significantly, meaning that a stricter enforcement of anti-poaching law is still very much the future for the Chinese giant salamander.
China's penalty for illegally hunting these creatures is very low and only comes to 50 yuan, or about US$6, which is less than one hundred times the black-market price. Establishments such as restaurants can charge up to US$250–US$400 per kilogram.
A hunting tool known as a bow hook is one of the preferred methods used by hunters to catch the salamander. This hunting tool is made with a combination of bamboo and sharp hooks baited with frogs or smaller fish. This is used to capture the salamander and keep it alive. Some hunters use pesticides to kill the salamander. Farmers often poach wild salamanders to stock their breeding programs, while others are hunted as food.
In a 2018 study, the
This section is written like a personal reflection, personal essay, or argumentative essay that states a Wikipedia editor's personal feelings or presents an original argument about a topic. (September 2019)
This section includes a list of general references, but it lacks sufficient corresponding inline citations. (January 2015)
To understand the conservation efforts in China, it is important to know something about the events of the several past hundred years of China's history relating to social attitudes, pressures on nature and natural resources, and the political ambition to safeguard the natural environment. Each of these are significant factors and determinants of conservation efforts. Up until the year 1700, China was a country that was rampant with land reclamations, growing land exploitation, and wars. These series of events led to a huge upsurge in the diminishing of the natural biomass and as well as a reduction in spatial distribution of biotic resources. The significance of this situation was that this drastic dwindling of resources made the people of this region aware of the relationship between utilization and conservation. From 1911 to 1949, China began to move into the direction of modern industry, urbanization, civil wars, and agriculture. This transition period brought with it the depletion and disappearance of various renewable resources, as well as the pollution of various biotopes. This lack of conservation eventually led to a deteriorating environment, which meant lower standards of living for the Chinese population. This is the point when both the government and the people of China came to the epiphany that the environment matters. It was not until 1956 that modern nature conservation efforts begin to develop.
The Chinese reforms that preceded this new Chinese perspective on conservation were not only beneficial to the Chinese giant salamander, but all organisms that occupied the natural environment of China. There was a formation of a new administrative system for nature conservation, which came together in the late 1950s. This new structure was able to establish new regulations that aimed at being successful in educating the masses about the value and significance of nature conservation, promoting awareness on the present status of various species, as well as prohibiting anti-conservation efforts such as hunting and trading of protected species such as the Chinese giant salamander. Some examples would be the Environmental Protection Law of 1979, Regulation of Water and Soil Conservation of 1982, Forestry Law of 1985, as well as the Wildlife Conservation Law of 1988. It was during this time period that the Chinese giant salamander was categorized as a category II species. All these species are endangered because their population is declining or their geographic distribution is becoming restricted.
In the midst of all these conservation efforts, in the late 1970s, a program network of nature reserves was established in China. These reserves were established to uphold four major principles.
- First, is to conserve typical ecosystems and to represent the biotic communities.
- Second, the reserves are meant to secure rare, endemic, and valuable species, as well as their habitats or breeding locations.
- Third, these reserves were developed to rescue and regenerate deteriorated or damaged natural ecosystems and habitats of special significance.
- Finally, the reserves would be created in order to have sanctuaries in areas of special importance, such as seed forests, geological sections, glacial remains, watershed forest, etc.
Many of these reservations were created for the overall protection of all endangered species of China and the conservation of the natural world they occupy. A few more reservations were made specifically with the idea of preserving Chinese giant salamander populations. Beginning in the 1980s, there have been more than 14 nature reserves established for the conservation of the Chinese giant salamander, such as the Zhangjiaje Giant Salamander Nature Reserve, Lushi Giant Salamander Nature Reserve, Qingyaoshan Giant Salamander Nature Reserve, Youyang Giant Salamander Nature Reserve, and the Taibai Giant Salamander Nature Reserve.
Though many efforts have been put forward, very few regulations have actually been enforced. Due to lack of strong influential regulations and lack of funding, the conservation of the Chinese giant salamander has all but failed. They continue to have major decline in their populations due to human intervention of many different sorts. Even nature reserves continue to see diminution of populations. Many of the reserves suffer from the same issues, such as shortage of funding and personnel, poaching, development of tourism, etc. Few believe that even with the major losses already suffered, the situation can still be turned around through proper protection of the Chinese giant salamander habitats, nesting sites, prevention of pollution from surface runoff, banning of certain hunting methods, and an assessment of irrigation work with nature reserves. Some believe that there also need to be more surveys carried out that institutes the conservation status and demography of the salamander, as well as having a holistic view of the life history of this species. Others say that a public information campaign is needed to better educate local inhabitants. 
Construction has begun on the largest artificial breeding and protection base for the endangered giant salamander in China. The base in
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- IUCN Red List critically endangered species
- Amphibians of China
- Amphibians described in 1871
- Traditional Chinese medicine
- Taxa named by Émile Blanchard
- Critically endangered fauna of Asia
- Species endangered by human consumption for medicinal or magical purposes
- Species endangered by use as food
- Species endangered by habitat loss
- Endemic fauna of China
- Critically endangered fauna of China