A team of researchers has announced that they have identified two new species of giant salamander. One of them is now considered the largest amphibian in the world. The details of the study are published in the journal Ecology and Evolution.
Chinese Giant Salamanders are in bad shape because they are listed as critically endangered species. So far, we thought that all belonged to one species (Andriasdavidianus), but recent genetic analyses of several specimens kept in historic museums, and samples of wild salamander tissue, are no doubt this belief. There would not be one, but three distinct species: Andriasdavidianus, Andriassligoi, and a third species that has not yet been named. Each evolves in a different environment.
“Our analysis reveals that giant Chinese salamander species diverged between 3.1 and 2.4 million years ago,” says Samuel Turvey of the London Zoological Institute. These dates correspond to a period of mountain formation in China when the Tibetan plateau rose rapidly. This could have isolated populations of giant salamanders and led to the evolution of distinct species in different landscapes.
The largest amphibian in the world
We know that the species Andriasdavidianus measures an average of one meter long and about 65 kilograms on the scale. Specimens up to 1.80 meters long have already been captured, but they remain exceptional. Already with such measurements, researchers considered this species as the largest and most massive in the world. But she has just been dethroned. The giant salamander of southern China newly discovered (Andriassligoi) indeed seems to be closer to two meters long. It is now – logically – considered the largest amphibian in the world.
New conservation efforts
Identifying these three genetically distinct species could allow for more concrete measures to protect these populations, victims of habitat degradation and hunting. Their flesh, considered a delicacy, sells for up to 100 euros per kilo. Which, for many people in China, is a significant sum. The other big problem with the salamander is that it is not very difficult to find or catch.
“The decline in the number of wild giant salamanders in China is catastrophic,” says the researcher. We hope that this new understanding of the diversity of their species has arrived in time to promote their conservation, but urgent measures are needed to protect all viable populations of Giant Salamander that could survive. “
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