The Chinese giant salamander can grow up to 1.8 metres in length and weighs 50 kg on average, making it the biggest amphibian in the world. This lumpy, dark brown ‘living fossil’ has been around for a very long time roughly 170 million years! So long in fact, that it has even seen the dinosaurs come and go!

It is a nocturnal and secretive creature and is very difficult to spot in the wild. It lives underwater and camouflages itself in the rocky beds of streams. It has many loose folds of skin covering its lumpy body; and short stubby limbs. It has no gills and breathes through its skin, which is why it prefers fast flowing mountain streams for better oxygenation.

It preys on fish, frogs and insects. Its eyes are not very effective and it detects prey mainly by vibrations in the water. During the breeding season, the female lays many eggs in an underwater den which is guarded by the male till the young hatch out.

This salamander is sometimes called ‘baby fish’ because its cry sounds like a baby crying. These creatures remained relatively unharmed till the 1970s but rapidly reduced in number after the Chinese started hunting them for meat and medicinal purposes.

Today thousands of salamanders are bred in farms across China to meet the market demand for these products. However, this practice is detrimental to the salamander, as farming introduces new diseases in wild populations. The Chinese salamander, which has survived big extinction events, may finally be wiped off the face of the earth due to human greed. They are currently listed as ‘Critically Endangered’ in the IUCN Red List.

Picture Credit : Google 

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