World’s largest amphibian
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World’s Largest Amphibian

Scientists have discovered the world’s largest amphibian- A New Species of Chinese giant salamanders 

They are listed as a critically endangered species; new research has shown!

The Giant Salamanders can grow more than five feet in length, and it can weigh well over a hundred pounds. A few decades ago they could still be readily found throughout China ranging from the subtropical south to the north-central mountains.

Despite being found over such a wide area, researchers have considered them to be a single species, Andrias davidianus.

Recent studies have found that they are not just one species but at least three different species. The species that is the largest of the three has been given a new name: Andrias sligoi- the South China giant salamander. 

The lead author of the paper Samuel Turvey said that it was shocking that at this age people were unaware about the largest species of amphibians in the world. He is a conservation scientist with the Zoological Society of London.

Andrias davidianus is already considered critically endangered, and the creatures are very close to going extinct in the wild. Accurately identifying the animals could lead to better conservation efforts.

World’s Largest Amphibian- Reason Behind The Extinction 

The

animals are primarily threatened by poaching, habitat loss, and widespread farming of animals. There are, in fact, millions of giant salamanders throughout China on farms. These individuals appear to be members of the more widespread species- Andrias davidianus.

This is partially a result of the fact that farming originated in central China, where this species is found. They’ve since been spread throughout China since the practice took off in the last few decades. Chinese giant salamanders are prized as delicacies, and their meat can fetch high prices.

Turvey and others surveyed for these giant animals in the wild from 2013 to 2016 and found them in only four sites. However, all of these were likely released from farms, because their genetics didn’t align with that of the area.

World’s Largest Amphibian- Comparing The Genes

During the study, the researchers examined museum specimens of the Chinese giant salamanders collected many decades ago. This was before the widespread farming and movement of amphibians around the country (by humans).

Researchers’ analysis shows that salamanders began to diverge 3.1 million years ago. This was because the Tibetan Plateau rose, along with the Nanling Mountains located in south-central China. This geographically separated the animals into at least three lineages, all of which are separate species. One of them is unique to the Yangtze River in the north, the other to the Pearl River in the southwest, and the third one is found in various streams in the southeast.

These results follow from the unique geography and genetics of the groups. Though the scientists don’t know what exact anatomical differences the separate species of the Chinese salamander might have, due to the different preservation technique followed.

Turvey added that many of the samples are also young salamanders. These specimens lack some characteristics seen in older individuals. Poaching pressure has made it such that the animals don’t grow to considerable lengths in the wild anymore.

Scientists say that it is impossible to say at this point how full-grown adult salamanders of each species would differ from one another.

For the third species of the giant salamander, the research group hasn’t yet been able to describe it or even name it. This is because they only have DNA from tissue samples to work with. It is not feasible since it is not a complete animal specimen, Turvey says

The scientists hope the work will lead to more appropriate conservation actions escalating forward. Ideally, salamanders from farms could be screened and have their genetics identified, before potentially being bred and reintroduced to the wild.

Turvey says that we in drastic danger of losing the World’s largest amphibian – The Giant Chinese Salamander.

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Rahul Mishra is a Science enthusiast and eager to learn something new each day. He has a degree in Microbiology and has joined forces with Biotecnika in 2019 due to his passion for writing and science.