Chinese Giant Salamander Facts: the Earth’s Largest Amphibian

The Chinese giant salamander is one of the world’s largest salamanders. It has a very weird appearance and is found mostly in China. It is critically endangered and could be extinct like the South China giant salamander. Here are 6 interesting facts bout giant Chinese salamanders.

Chinese giant salamander
Scientific name: Andrias davidianus
Phylum: Chordata
Class: Amphibia
Order: Urodela
Genus: Andrias

1. They’re the ugliest amphibians

The Chinese giant salamander is one of three giant salamanders which also include the Japanese giant salamander and the North American hellbender. These species create the Cryptobranchidae family.

During the Jurassic Period, they all separated from other amphibians. They are known as “living fossils” that watched the dinosaurs arrive and leave. Now, they are the world’s biggest amphibians.

Japanese giant salamander vs Chinese giant salamander

As you can see, the Chinese giant salamander is one of the weirdest or ugliest creatures on the planet. It has a huge head with tiny lidless eyes and a broad mouth. Its body is flat and thick, with tiny limbs and a dorsal fin that goes along from head to tail. Like all Amphibia species, it features vomerine teeth.

Its skin is wrinkled and usually has dark colors (brown or black) with speckle patterns. Occasionally, this salamander comes in red and albino versions. The albino salamander will be in orange or white colors.

The Chinese giant salamander compared to human

The full-grown salamander has an average size of 3.8 feet (1.15 m) in length and weighs 55 – 66 pounds (25–30 kg). However, it can grow to be 5.9 feet long (1.8 m) and weighs 110 pounds (50 – 52 kg). Its tail comprises more than half of its body. When compared to some adult humans, it can be even bigger.

With this size, the Chinese giant is the biggest salamander in the world. Next is the Japanese giant salamander, and the hellbender holds the last position.

2. They’re aquatic species

This species was originally widespread over central, southern, and southwestern areas in China. but its distribution has become increasingly fragmented. Their habitats range from Qinghai east to Jiangsu Guangdong, Sichuan, and Guangxi.

Taiwan and Japan have also received imports of the species. This poses a threat to the Japanese salamanders because these two species crossbreed.

Since the Chinese giant salamander is fully aquatic, it thrives in clear-water rocky highland lakes and rivers. It spends most of its time in these habitats in dark muddy or rocky cracks along the banks. Most of them are found in forested areas at heights ranging from 1,000 to 3000 feet ( about 300 to 900 meters).

Although this salamander china is aquatic species, it doesn’t have gills. Instead of that, it breathes through its skin. This is the reason why it likes staying in clean, shallow, fast-flowing rivers with lots of oxygen. However, this creature deposits eggs in the den having a considerably slower flow.

Moreover, their habitat is frequently characterized by very stony, uneven riverbeds with a lot of pebbles, mall rocks, and some plants. With its appearance, it has perfect camouflage.

To find out more about the strange amphibians on Earth, you may read some articles below:

3. They call like a crying baby

These salamanders are most active at night. In the daytime, they sleep under rocks. They may emerge during the day in the breeding season.

The Chinese giant salamanders are famous for their sounds. They whine, scream, hiss, bark, and cry. Some of these are very similar to the crying sound of a child. This explains why these species are also called the “baby fish” (/ – Wáwáy/ n) in the Chinese language.

The Chinese, as well as other giant salamanders, secrete a slippery, white skin fluid that scares away predators to protect themselves.

They also have many small teeth to bite. The jaws of a Japanese salamander are powerful enough to remove a portion of a human finger. The Pacific ones will bite their potential predators. But you shouldn’t be worried because these salamanders are aggressive to humans.

4. They’re cannibals

At night, the Chinese amphibians start looking for food. These carnivorous species eat various diets including snails, worms, crayfish, millipedes, frogs, freshwater crabs (their favorite food), insects, fish, Asiatic water shrews, shrimp, smaller salamanders, and even their own kind.

A Chinese giant salamander is eating a amphibian species
It has a varied diet

Due to their weak vision, salamanders find prey by detecting their movements in the water. They use their sensory nodes running along their bodies to sense even the smallest vibrations surrounding them. They eat the prey by sucking them into their throats.

Besides the time, the temperature of the water also influences how the species feeds. If the water temp is above 68°F (20°C), some of them will cease eating. If the temperature rises to 82°F (28°C), they will stop feeding. The great Chinese salamanders die if the temperature is 95°F (35°C) and above.

Their main predator is humans.

5. Chinese giant salamander life cycle

They live a lonely life most of the time, except for the mating season. The breeding season of the Chinese giant salamander is in late summer. They migrate upstream and the male will do the sand-pushing. He will remove stones and sand from his burrow to make it smooth and clean. This activity could last for 8 days.

The female is attracted to well-kept dens. The male emerges from his cave and begins wooing them by washing their bodies. They then exhibit various courting behaviors like bumping bellies, mouth-to-mouth posing, leaning sideways, rolling over, jumping, following, and cohabiting.

The female deposits 400-500 eggs in an underwater mating burrow, and the male will externally. fertilize them. He guards and takes care of the eggs till they hatch in 50-60 days. He will toss and fan the eggs with his tail and eat the unfertilized eggs.

The newly hatched larvae have the same form as adults. They still retain external gills until they are 3 years old. After about a month, larvae grow in the streams and begin feeding fish, insects, etc on their own. The juveniles reach sexual maturity at the age of 5 – 6 years old. At this time, they can be about 16 to 20 inches (40 to 50 centimeters) long.

Among amphibian species, Chinese salamanders have the longest lifespan. They can live at least 60 years in captivity.



Nurse Sharks Lie on the Seabed All Day and Cuddle Each Other

6. Conservation status

The Chinese giant salamander was once fairly abundant and widespread in China. However, its population has been rapidly declining since the 1950s. It is classified as a critically endangered species in the Chinese Red Book.

Human activities are thought to have wiped out more than 80% of this species’ last three generations. They don’t have places to live due to habitat destruction such as mining and building dams.

The Chinese salamander farms are very popular in China

They don’t have enough oxygen to breathe because their home is contaminated by mining and farming activities, pesticides, and chemicals. The water quality is so low (which is caused by deforestation) that they cannot breathe normally. These salamanders are also affected by ranavirus infection and climate change.

However, above all of these, overhunting is the main reason why their population has declined so rapidly. People hunt them for food and traditional medicines. This resulted in the establishment of thousands of these salamander farms around China. Some of them cost more than $1,500 each.

It’s quite easy to hunt a Chinese giant salamander. Breeding large Chinese salamanders is a huge industry with hundreds of breeding facilities and numerous businesses.

These endangered are sold for meat

14 wildlife reserves have been founded in an attempt to protect the species since the 1980s. However, due to the enormous overhunting of the species, many of these areas do not work.

Every year, 100 species are unlawfully hunted in the Hupingshan Natural Nature Reserve only. The more Chinese salamanders are saved through the reserves, the more they’ll be hunted by poachers.

There are around 50,000 Chinese giant salamanders left in the world. However, due to all of the reasons above, this species could be already extinct.


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