Tech UPTechnologySalamander lived with dinosaurs about to disappear

Salamander lived with dinosaurs about to disappear

There are certain species of animals that have survived for millions of years with hardly any notable evolutionary changes. They are living fossils that fascinate us due to their archaic characteristics, which usually have strange life forms for the current human being and, nevertheless, they are still here among us. One of these species is undoubtedly the Chinese giant salamander.

The largest amphibian in the world

This salamander can measure up to 1.8 meters in length and weigh around 50 kilos . These figures make it the largest amphibian in the world. It is estimated to be 170 million years old , so it predates many of the animal species we know and even outdates the most famous predator, Tyrannosaurus rex , which became extinct more than 60 million years ago. According to experts, it remains with hardly any evolution since the Jurassic period.

This salamander managed to survive the mass extinction that wiped out the dinosaurs and has survived to this day. However, the devastation of its natural environment has reduced its size and its population faces a critical situation of danger of extinction.

It has a large head in proportion to its body. Flat jaws that allow you to open your mouth in the manner of the lids of a toilet. Small eyes are located at the top in front of the head. It usually has a wrinkled skin of dark and red tones. They live in cold water currents, where they can eat insects, fish and other amphibians.

An endangered delicacy

Until not long ago, these animals had a significant population in China. But various factors are making it increasingly difficult to find giant salamanders in the wild. Among them, pollution and poaching stand out, as they are coveted animals whose meat can fetch high prices and are also used in traditional Chinese medicine. This circumstance has led to the proliferation of farms and hatcheries for these Chinese salamanders , which, however, do not seem to be helping to conserve the species.

The critical situation of the Chinese giant salamander has made researchers and various committed groups interested in the study and dissemination of this animal. So much so that, what until now had been considered a single species, turns out to be at least three different species . They have given the name Andrias sligoi to what is probably the largest species. Although the scientific name that traditionally referred to this animal was Andrias davidianus , a name that dates back to the 18th century, when some scientists confused the remains of this salamander with the body of a human drowned in the Universal Flood.

In 2019, a study led by Samuel Turvey, a conservation scientist at the Zoological Society of London, was published:

“The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus), the world’s largest amphibian, is thought to be found in much of China, but populations are harvested for agriculture as a luxury food. Between 2013 and 2016, we conducted field surveys and 2,872 interviews in what is possibly the largest wildlife survey ever conducted in China. This extensive effort revealed that populations of this once-widespread species are now severely depleted or extirpated in all surveyed areas of its range, and illegal poaching is widespread.”

Chinese law prohibits the collection of wild Chinese giant salamanders, but the Ministry of Agriculture supports the release of these animals from farms , a strategy that does not achieve the desired results, since the wrong species are introduced into the wrong habitats. Thus, a mixture of genetic lineages and the propagation of pathogens are generated, which is reducing a wild population that has been drastically reduced in the last thirty years.

Scientists are unclear on the anatomical differences between the species due to the different ways these animals were preserved. Between 2013 and 2016, Turvey and his team only found Chinese giant salamanders in four places, but they believe that they were specimens released from farms, since their genetics do not match what they should have in those habitats.

A blind salamander that lives underground and can go up to 10 years without eating, or a purple frog that spends most of its life buried four meters away, are also counted on the list made by the Zoological Society of London with the ten species most endangered amphibians.

The study, knowledge and dissemination of these species will make it possible to propose conservation strategies with greater chances of success.


Agencies. 2008. They discover a species of Chinese salamander that predates the dinosaurs.

Main, D. 2019. New species of giant salamander identified as world’s largest amphibian.

Turvey, S. T. et al. 2018. Imminent extinction in the wild of the world’s largest amphibian Current Biology 28, 10, R592-R594. DOI: 10.1016/j.cub.2018.04.005.

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