Mangshan Crocodile Newt
|Taxonomic Notes: Fei, Ye & Jiang 2012 Colored atlas of Chinese amphibians place this species Yaotriton, consider a subgenus by others.|
Species Description: Hou M, Li P, Lu S. 2012. Morphological research development of genus Tylototriton and primary confirmation of the status of four cryptic species (in Chinese). J Huangshan Univ 14:61-65. (authors of name: Hou, Zhang, Jiang, Li and Lu).
© 2015 Axel Hernandez (1 of 24)
Author: Axel Hernandez
Tylototriton lizhengchangi HOU, ZHANG, JIANG, LI, & LÜ 2012
Diagnosis and taxonomyThe original description is a short diagnosis published in Chinese and based on the holotype (SYNU-HM20090501-NT001) and three paratypes collected in 2009. According to recent phylogenies, this species is the sister taxon of T. liuyangensis (HOU MIAN unpubl. data, PHIMMACHAK et al. 2015, this study). Males can reach a maximum TL of 17.3 and females 15.6 cm (FEI et al. 2012). This is a robust newt with a finely granular and therefore relatively smooth skin. It is for the largest part black with only the tips of the fingers and toes, the cloacal region, and the underside of the tail being yellowish to reddish. The head is longer than wide. 16 to 17 dorsolateral glandular warts are present, but inconspicuous, on each side of the trunk, forming sharp-edged, distinctly raised dorsolateral ridges (the dorsal warts are a little more pronounced in males). The tail is longer than the snout-vent length. The rear parts of the parotoids may be red in males, but this character is not always present, much like the situation in T. notialis, T. asperrimus, and T. wenxianensis. Only two populations that are very similar morphologically are known at this stage.
DistributionAside from at the type locality on Mt. Mangshan in Hunan Province, south-central China, the species is also present in Xian of Yizhang, Chenzhou, Hunan, and in neighboring Guangdong, where it was discovered by poachers in Ruyuan in 2013.
Habitat, ethology and ecologyMangshan crocodile newt is a terrestrial species even though some males have been observed in small ponds throughout the year. It lives in karst mountain forests at moderate elevations of 952- 1,200 m a.s.l. in southern Hunan Province. It is nocturnal most of the year (outside the breeding season), spending the day in rock cavities filled with fallen leaves. Its habitat offers a multitude of water bodies that form in the karst ground. The characteristic red parotoids in wild specimens are a result of calcium-rich food such as freshwater shrimps of the genus Caridina and mollusks. Temperatures can drop to 0.0 °C in winter and reach 24.0 °C in summer.
ReproductionLarge marshy areas with ponds appear with the arrival of the monsoon in early May. Mating begins in June. The eggs are deposited along streams or right in the water. This species enters its breeding waters at colder temperatures than other species (between 13.0 and 14.5 °C in May). Juveniles are sensitive to fungal infections and other skin problems.
In captivity, courtship was usually observed in the aquatic section at temperatures of 17.0 to 19.0 °C in March/April. GEORGES DECOME (FUG) recorded a first aquatic amplexus at 13 °C on 8 February 2015, another one at 14.5°C on 22 March, and a final one at 14.0 °C on 30 March. Eggs were deposited one day later in each instance and subsequently proved very sensitive to fungi such as Saprolegnia. Larvae hatched 20 days later at 20.0 °C and were kept in the tank of the adults. They were fed with mosquito larvae and Daphnia.
Status, threats and conservationSince its recent discovery, the numbers of specimens illegally imported into Europe and the US via Hong Kong have risen. The species should be considered endangered according to the original authors and enjoys Class-II protection (as T. asperrimus) in China. Its distribution range is very small, and intensive collecting in the wake of its formal description as a separate species has reduced the wild populations to a point where it could become extinct in the very near future; large adult individuals were already hard to find in 2014 and 2015.
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