Chinese Giant Salamander
© 2011 Pierre Mercan (1 of 24)
The two species of Andrias - A. davidianus occurring in China and A. japonicus in Japan - are the largest living salamanders, with adults reaching a total length of more than 100 cm. The two species are similar with several features in common. Vomerine teeth located on anterior margin of vomer, parallel with maxillary tooth row; teeth form a long arc. Nasals in contact with maxilla; frontal does not enter external naris. Pterygoid broad, almost in contact with base of maxilla. Hyoid arches cartilaginous. Two pairs of branchial arches. Body large, no spiracle on head; distance between nostrils less than half the distance between the eyes. Tongue large. Tubercles on highly vascular skin. Permanently aquatic.
The Chinese Giant Salamander is very similar to the Japanese Giant Salamander and differs from the latter by the arrangement of tubercles on the head and throat. The tubercles of A. davidianus are mostly in pairs, and much smaller and fewer than those of A. japonicus. The tubercles on the throat are characteristic for each species. In A. davidianus, the very small paired tubercles are arranged in rows parallel with the lower jaw. In A. japonicus they are mostly single and large and irregularly scattered. The snout is less rounded and the tail a little longer in the Chinese species. The colour is darker with large black patches (Chang 1936; Liu 1950; Thorn 1969).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: China. Introduced: Taiwan.
The habitat consists of rocky mountain streams and lakes with clear, running water, at moderate altitudes (below 1500 m, especially between 300 and 800 m), where the animals occupy hollows and cavities under water. The salamanders spend their whole lives in water.
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Mating behavior has been described for A. japonicus (Kawamichi and Ueda 1998) and probably is similar for A. davidianus. In the reproductive season, which appears to fall in August-September, the male occupies a breeding cavity, which he aggressively guards against intruders. Females enter the cavity and leave it directly after spawning. The male fertilizes the eggs and guards them until they hatch after about 50-60 days.
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
This species was featured as News of the Week on 4 June 2018:
Giant salamanders in China are in trouble because of a combination of exploitation for food and intense captive breeding activities that have mixed genetically distinct groups across its known range. Yan et al. (2018) shows that the animals currently known as Andrias davidianus should be split into at least five different cryptic species. Chinese giant salamanders have been farm-raised for their meat with the government encouraging the release of some individuals in a misguided conservation attempt. However, the farm-raised individuals were bred without consideration of genetics and their release could result in the loss of genetic distinctness, merging the five species into one. Further Turvey et al. (2018) presents a dismal picture of the current status of wild populations; despite intense field work, a seasoned group of biologists were only able to find no more than a handful of individuals. Governmental action will be required to preserve those few wild populations that still exist (Written by David B. Wake & Ann T. Chang).
Chang, M. L. Y. (1936). Contribution à l'étude morphologique, biologique et systèmatique des amphibiens urodèles de la Chine. Librairie Picart, Paris.
Fei, L. (1999). Atlas of Amphibians of China. Henan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Zhengzhou.
Haker, K. (1997). "Haltung und Zucht des Chinesischen Riesensalamanders Andrias davidianus." Salamandra, 33, 69-74.
Kawamichi, T. and Ueda, H. (1998). ''Spawning at nests of extra-large males in the Giant Salamander Andrias japonicus.'' Journal of Herpetology, 32, 133-136.
Liu, C.C. (1950). Amphibians of Western China. Chicago Natural History Museum, Chicago.
Liu, G., and Q. Liu (1998). ''Andrias davidianus (Blanchard, 1871).'' China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals. Amphibia and Reptilia. Zhao, E., eds., Science Press, Beijing, China, 30-33.
Thorn, R. (1969). Les Salamandres d'Europe, d'Asie, et d'Afrique du Nord. Lechevalier, Paris, France.
Ye, C., Fei, L., and Hu, S. Q. (1993). Rare and Economic Amphibians of China. Sichuan Publishing House of Science and Technology, Chengdu.
Zhao, E. (1999). ''Distribution patterns of amphibians in temperate East Asia.'' Patterns of Distribution of Amphibians. A Global Perspective. Duellman, W. E., eds., Johns Hopkins University Press, Baltimore, MD, 421-443.
Zhao, E. (ed.) (1998). China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals. Amphibia and Reptilia. Science Press, Beijing, China.
Written by Max Sparreboom (m.c.sparreboom AT hetnet.nl), Foundation Praemium Erasmianum, Amsterdam
First submitted 2000-02-07
Edited by Meredith J. Mahoney, Michelle S. Koo; Updated by Ann T. Chang (2019-03-06)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2019 Andrias davidianus: Chinese Giant Salamander <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/3858> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 23, 2019.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2019. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 23 May 2019.
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