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12 июня 2018, 20:15

All 5 Giant Salamander Species Are Under Threat


Stay on target

The world’s largest amphibian is on the brink of extinction.

Not what most people would consider “cute,” the Chinese giant salamander grows to nearly 6 feet long and weighs an average 60 pounds (though the largest-ever Andrias davidianus registered a whopping 130 pounds).

Beady eyes peer out from either side of their flat heads, which carry a permanent, wide smirk and mottled, wrinkly skin that stretches down to a pointed tail and four squat limbs.

*Shudders*

Chinese giant salamanders are a flagship species for China’s freshwater river systems. But what was previously thought to represent a single breed apparently consists of at least five genetic lineages.

“We weren’t surprised to find two or three [species],” Bob Murphy, senior curator of herpetology at the Royal Ontario Museum’s Center for Biodiversity and Conservation Biology, told National Geographic .

But “we were surprised at just how much diversity was there,” Murphy, corresponding author on a recent study, said. “At least five and up to eight species, that was quite a shock.”

Some of those newfound varieties, however, may remain a mystery: Among their native rocky mountain streams and lakes of China, A. davidianus is threatened by poaching and human intervention.

The amphibian is considered a luxury food item (gross) and important source of traditional medicines; despite conservation efforts, the once-widespread animal is now critically endangered.

Most of those found in the wild have been raised on farms, their hybrid offspring released “under well-intentioned, but misguided, conservation management,” according to a paper published in the journal Current Biology .

“The system begins to break down, and then you end up with lower developmental rates and a bunch of inefficient salamanders that can result in a population loss,” Murphy said. “You mix all of that together and the salamanders are lost.”

If this continues, he explained, those five-to-eight species could dwindle to one—or none—in the next two decades. Which may have a negative effect on Chinese and global ecosystems. Only time will tell.

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Source: https://www.geek.com/science/all-5-giant-salamander-species-are-under-threat-1742056/?source=science