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Chinese giant salamanders are three separate species; this new finding should help guide efforts to save the critically endangered animal.
Broadly speaking, we already knew that the largest amphibians are the giant salamanders of China. They can grow more than five feet in length and well over 100 pounds. Only a few decades ago they could still be readily found throughout China, from the subtropical south to the north-central mountains to the eastern part of the country.
Despite being found over such a wide area, and in areas separated by mountains and consisting of separate rivers, researchers have considered them to be a single species, Andrias davidianus.
But new research of museum specimens shows that Chinese giant salamanders are not one, but rather at least three different species. And the species that is likely the largest of the three has been given a new name: Andrias sligoi, or the South China giant salamander, according to a study published September 17 in the journal Ecology and Evolution
“It’s amazing in this day and age that it took until now to work out what the world’s largest amphibian is,” says study lead author Samuel Turvey, a conservation scientist with the Zoological Society of London.
The news comes at an urgent time for the animals. Andrias davidianus is already considered critically endangered, and the creatures are perilously close to going extinct in the wild, Turvey says. The two new species are almost certainly in even worse shape, he adds. Properly identifying the creatures could lead to better conservation efforts.
Sources: national geographic.com; new scientist.com