Time is running out for the Chinese Giant Salamander, also known as the Andrias davidanus.
The world’s largest living amphibian can grow up to 1.8 m long — that’s 6 feet tall if they could stand up. They’re also pretty hefty critters and a grown one can be as heavy as 50 kg.
They’re endemic to China and because of overexploitation for food, they’re listed as Critically Endangered.
The Chinese eat the Giant Salamander as an expensive delicacy and as such, there is a growing industry to farm the species. It’s not known yet what kind of impact farmed Giant Salamander will have on conservation but some initial research shows that continued breeding of the Giant Salamander increases the potential for infectious diseases and genetic pollution.
The Chinese government used to encourage releasing the farmed salamander into the wild for breeding but that’s now being reconsidered because of concerns of spreading pathogens.
Since the 1950s, there’s been a population decline of the Chinese Giant Salamanders by 80 per cent. A study published in The Herpetologist League has studied the effect of water temperature on wild versus captive-reared salamanders.
The 240 salamanders in two groups were exposed to different water temperatures for 7 months and monitored their growth over the next 3 yr.
Subjects that were exposed to lower water temperatures (0.8–19.4°C) were lighter and shorter than those maintained at higher temperatures (7.8–19.1°C).
Furthermore, subjects maintained at lower temperatures had a lower growth rate than those maintained at higher temperatures, except for the interval between the last two measurements.
Captive-reared salamanders had lower body-condition indices than wild animals having the same body length during the study period. Captive subjects were 16% and 19% lighter than wild individuals of the same length when maintained in the high- and low- temperature groups, respectively.
Ther study indicates that water temperature affected juvenile growth, and captive-reared Giant Salamanders older than 5 years old had a body-condition index approaching that of individuals in the wild.