AmphibiaWeb - Hynobius chinensis


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Hynobius chinensis Günther, 1889
Chinese Salamander
Subgenus: Hynobius
family: Hynobiidae
subfamily: Hynobiinae
genus: Hynobius
Hynobius chinensis
© 2004 Henk Wallays (1 of 11)

AmphibiaChina logo AmphibiaChina 中国两栖类.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Data Deficient (DD)
National Status Listed as
Regional Status None


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From Adler and Zhao (1991) based on the two type specimens: Head large, its length from snout to gular fold longer than its width (15.2 x 10.6 mm; 12.8 x 9.5 mm); tip of snout rounded. Eyes are dorsolateral in position, slightly protruded; diameter of eye shorter than the distance from its anterior corner to the tip of snout; pupil rounded. Nostril between eye and tip of snout and lightly closer to the latter; distance between nostrils slightly larger or equal to the distance between eyes. A "V"-shaped bulge on top of head. No labial fold. An indistinct gular fold. Angle of jaw just behind the posterior corner of eye. Both maxilla and mandible with tiny teeth. Tongue elliptical, large, almost covering the entire floor of mouth. Series of vomerine teeth "XX"-shaped, the outer branch comprising 6-9 and inner branch 11-15 teeth; the angle formed by outer and inner branches just beyond the anterior margin of choanae; inner branches much longer than the outer ones and extending backwards to the level of the middle of eye ball; the posterior ends of two inner branches close but do not meet at midline. Body short and stout; limbs well developed and tips of digits meet when limbs adpressed. Costal grooved 11, very prominent and meeting on ventral midline. Fingers four, 2-3-4-1 in order of length, the first finger almost equal in length to the fourth. Toes five, 3-42-5-1 I order of length. Digits flattened, free; without palmar and tarsal tubercles; no cornified covering on palms, tarsa, fingers, and toes. Tail length shorter than snout-vent length; tail compressed, but cylindrical at the base and pointed at the end, without crest on ventral edge and only slightly so on its dorsal side. Skin smooth.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: China

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The species only occurs in China, including Hubei Province (Yichang) of central China, Zhejiang Province (Wenling, Yiwu, Xiaoshan, Zhenghai, Zhoushan counties), and Fujian Province (Wuyizhan= Chong'an County, Dehua County) at the east. Chinese Salamander is a terrestrial species. Out of the breeding season, they are difficult to find. The most frequent places that the salamanders occur include under rocks or logs, or in loose soil near streams in the mountainous areas. Breeding sites are mostly lentic ponds. At Xiaoshan, all breeding ponds are lentic. Most of them are at the size of around 4-6 square meters and some of them are within the agricultural area and used as small reservoir by farmers. At Zhoushan Island, a few breeding sites are lotic ponds, which are connected with streams. These ponds are normally with very slow moving or almost lentic water. All breeding sites are at low elevation, typically 100-200m. At Zhoushan, the elevation ranges from 80m to 250m.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Breeding season is from middle November to early March. Each female lay a pair of egg sacs which usually include about 80 to 96 eggs. It takes about 40 days for the eggs to develop into larvae and 100 to 120 days to finish the metamorphosis. In the field, the development of larvae continues until May. It may take at least two years for the larvae to reach sexual maturity. The juveniles have distinctive coloration. The whole body is bluish with white spots. Currently, Zhoushan Island holds the densest, perhaps the largest population. Ma and Gu (1999) estimated that about 4,000 individuals live on the 502 square kilometer island. Huantan subcounty of Xiaoshan County has another large population. The populations at other localities are comparatively sparse. Pope (1931) reported it from Wuyishan (Guatun). Since then, only eggs were found in 1981 (Cai et al., 1985) and 1994 (Zeng et al., 1997). The two type specimens are the only collection from Yichang. Boring and Chang (1933) is the only report of H. chinensis from Wenling. Despite several attempts, trace of Hynobius at the above two areas has never been found.

Trends and Threats
It is clear that at several localities the populations are shrinking. However, there are few population seem to be doing very well, i.e. Zhoushan Island and Xiaoshan (Huantan). In general, the destruction of breeding site may be the biggest threats to the species, although the Huantan population seems successful within agricultural areas. On the other hand, two sites in Fujiang Province (Guadun and Dehua) have apparently excellent habitat, but have very low population density.

The taxonomy of H. chinensis needs to be further examined. The type locality is at central China, Yichang (Ichang). Currently, populations from eastern China are also under the name. Adler and Zhao (1990) questioned the correctness of the type locality. Except the two type specimens, no hynobius have never been found in Yichang area. All other hynobius are distributed in eastern China. Although Adler and Zhao inclined to accept the type locality, the inconsistency of the historical data make it dubious. Futhermore, if the data are right, it is unlikely that the Yichang population is the same species as the eastern Chinese populations.


Adler, K. and Zhao, E. (1990). "Studies on hynobiid salamanders, with description of a new genus." Asian Herpetological Research, 3, 37-45.

Cai, C. (1985). ''A survey of tailed amphibians of Zhejiang with description of a new species of Hynobius.'' Acta Herpetologica Sinica, 4(2), 109-114.

Ma, X. and Gu, H. (1999). ''Studies on distribution and population size of Hynobius chinensis on the Zhoushan Island.'' Sichuan Journal of Zoology, 18(3), 107-108.

Zeng, X., Fei, L., Ye, C., and Jiang, J. (1997). ''The karyotypes of three species of genus Hynobius and Salamandrella keyserlingerii.'' Zoological Research, 18(3), 341-345.

Originally submitted by: Yuezhao Wang, Jinzhong Fu (first posted 1999-11-10)
Description by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-03-18)
Distribution by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-03-18)
Life history by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-03-18)
Trends and threats by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-03-18)
Comments by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-03-18)

Edited by: Vance T. Vredenburg (2021-03-18)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Hynobius chinensis: Chinese Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Jun 17, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 17 Jun 2024.

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