AmphibiaWeb - Cynops wolterstorffi


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Cynops wolterstorffi (Boulenger, 1905)
Kunming Lake Newt, Yunnan Lake Newt
Subgenus: Cynotriton
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Pleurodelinae
genus: Cynops
Species Description: Boulenger, G. A. (1905)." Description of a new newt from Yunnan." Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London 1905: 277.
Taxonomic Notes: This extinct species was placed in a monotypic genus Hypselotriton by Wolterstorff 1934, which was soon synonymized with Cynops by Chang, 1936. Dubois & Raffaelli 1009, 2012 Alytes, resurrected Hypselotriton and include all Chinese species of Cynops in it. Sparreboom 2014 uses Cynops for the Chinese species, which on molecular grounds forms a clade with the two Japanese species.
Cynops wolterstorffi
© 2001 Arie van der Meijden (1 of 2)

AmphibiaChina logo AmphibiaChina 中国两栖类.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Extinct (EX)
National Status Though to be extinct; Red Data Book of China
Regional Status None


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A fairly large newt among the Cynops species, the female measuring upto 16 cm, the male 12 cm. Head is a little longer than wide and high in the occipital region. The snout is short and rounded, reaching over the lower jaw. Distinct labial lobe. Eye big, situated dorso-laterally. Parotid glands are small. Gular fold more or less well developed. Stout body, a little higher than wide, no dorso-lateral ridges. Tail a little shorter than head and body, compressed at the base and high, featuring a crest on dorsal and ventral sides. Tail end is rather pointed.

Limbs are slender, the forelimbs have four digits and the hindlimbs have five. The digits do not have claws and are not webbed. The skin is smooth, but rougher than for instance in C. orientalis.

Colour is black on the back, with a distinct orange-coloured vertebral ridge extending onto the tail. Occasionally orange spots on head and sides of the body. Colour of ventral side red or orange with irregular dark spots, sometimes forming longitudinal rows (Chang 1936),(Thorn 1969). A noticeable orange-red spot behind the eye, at the corner of the mouth. This characteristic, along with an arched back, inconspicuous parotid glands and the colour of the tail in the male, led Zhao & Hu (1988) to place this species close to C. cyanurus. The male has a deep blue tail in the breeding season (Zhao 1998). The male cloaca is rounded but not very prominent, the female cloaca is a short fold.

Many mature specimens have gill vestiges of various lengths. One of the type specimens has gills and contains ripe ova (Pope & Boring 1940). This species shows a strong tendency toward neoteny. Eggs and larvae are not described. A good illustration is published with the original description (Boulenger, 1905, plate 17; copied in smaller format in Wolterstorff, 1926). Photos of preserved specimens in Wolterstorff (1934 plate 1), who remarked that this newt had a fish-like appearance, adapted to an entirely aquatic life.

In the genus Cynops at least seven species are currently recognized (C. pyrrhogaster and C. ensicauda in Japan, C. orientalis, C. cyanurus, C. chenggongensis, C. wolterstorffi and C. orphicus in China, and possibly another taxon in the Hong Kong area). In a number of species, subspecies are recognized. C. wolterstorffi was long placed in a separate genus Hypselotriton on the basis of studies in skull morphology (Herre, 1939; Pope & Boring, 1940; Thorn, 1969). The genus Cynops is characterized by a combination of a number of features: Long nasal process of the premaxilla; complete and large bony fronto-squamosal arch; small or non-existant internasal cavity. Well-developed paroccipital corners. Vomero-palatal teeth as in Triturus. No crest, but a more or less prominent vertebral ridge. Tail compressed laterally. Reproduction as in Triturus (Thorn 1969): courtship consisting of tail-fanning by the male; eggs deposited singly on water plants.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: China

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The species' known distribution is limited to Kunming Lake (Yunnan-fu, Yunnan Lake), in the Chinese province of Yunnan, situated on a plateau at approx. 1800 m altitude (Fei 1999). The newt used to be found in shallow waters along the northern part of Kunming Lake, and also in irrigation canals, ponds and swamps. Hibernation would take place in deeper waters of the lake (Zhao 1998).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Little is known of this species' life history. During the breeding season in April and May, thousands of animals were reported swimming among aquatic plants in the shallow parts of the lake's shores. In 1950 the animal was still reported as abundant. Since 1979 no newts have been found (Zhao 1998).

Trends and Threats
This salamander was very abundant in Kunming Lake in 1950, thousands of individuals were seen in the breeding season (Zhao1998). Survey teams have been searching the lake since 1979 and have been unable to find any individuals (Zhao1998). There is one report of a fisherman seeing one individual in 1984 (Zhao1998). Cynops wolterstorffi is believed to be extinct (Zhao1998).
It is unclear from the literature to what extent the vicinity of Lake Kunming has been searched for potential, remaining habitats.

Relation to Humans
Local knowledge of this newt is now restricted to reports recorded from a few older fishermen, who were questioned about the occurrence of the newt in the lake (Zhao 1998).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Predators (natural or introduced)

Three factors are held responsible for the presumed extinction of the species:
1. pollution of Kunming Lake, due to growth of Kunming city and increased disposal of industrial waste and domestic sewage in the lake;
2. decrease of suitable habitat by claiming land from the lake, especially in the northern part of the lake;
3. increased presence of natural enemies such as Grass Carp and duck and possibly the introduction of Bull Frogs (Rana catesbeiana) (Zhao 1998).


Boulenger, G.A (1905). ''Description of a new newt from Yunnan.'' Proceedings of the Zoological Society of London, 1905, 277-278.

Chang, M. L. Y. (1936). Contribution à l'étude morphologique, biologique et systématique 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.

Herre, W. (1939). ''Studien an asiatischen und nordamerikanischen Salamandriden.'' Abhandlungen und Berichte des Museums für Naturkunde, Magdeburg, 7(1), 79-98.

Pope, C.H. and Boring, A.M. (1940). ''A survey of Chinese Amphibia.'' Peking Natural History Bulletin, 15(1), 13-86.

Thorn, R. (1969). Les Salamandres d'Europe, d'Asie, et d'Afrique du Nord. Lechevalier, Paris, France.

Wolterstorff, W. (1926). ''Ostasiatische Tritonen.'' Blätter für Aquarien und Terrarienkunde, 37(15), 372-375.

Wolterstorff, W. (1934). ''Über die Gattung Hypselotriton.'' Zoologischer Anzeiger, 108, 257-263.

Zhao, E. (ed.) (1998). China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals. Amphibia and Reptilia. Science Press, Beijing, China.

Zhao, E. and Hu, Q. (1988). ''Studies on Chinese tailed amphibians.'' Studies on Chinese Salamanders. E. Zhao, Q. Hu, Y. Jiang and Y. Yang, eds., Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1-44.

Originally submitted by: Max Sparreboom (first posted 2000-02-09)
Edited by: Arie van der Meijden (2001-07-16)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2001 Cynops wolterstorffi: Kunming Lake Newt <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jul 18, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 18 Jul 2024.

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