Only three species of giant salamanders exist today and a notably large member of the Chinese species was discovered outside a cave near Chongqing recently. The endangered amphibian is quite striking when seen next to a typically-sized man, definitely earning the title of “giant.” This specimen also lives up to its moniker as a “living fossil” as it is estimated to be around 200-years-old.
The salamander in the above video was measured to be about 4.5 feet long and weighs nearly 115 pounds. Giant salamanders can reach up to 5 feet 9 inches and usually live their lives quietly in fast-flowing streams where they feast on fish and crustaceans. Their biggest predator, as it turns out, is humans. The EDGE of Existence program, or Evolutionarily Distinct & Globally Endangered, lists all remaining species as “critically endangered” due to habitat destruction, pollution, over-harvesting of their food sources, and using them as a delicacy food dish.
For the giant salamander to appear on this list means that a truly “living fossil” may be nearing extinction. Their lineage dates back 170 million years ago to ancestors in the Jurassic Period. Over the last 30 years the Chinese giant salamander has suffered a large population decline. It is unclear whether this specimen will be returned to his or her place in the wild, yet hopefully the discovery will remind people of the delicate nature of the species and the need for its protection.
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