Feast your eyes on the world’s largest amphibian

What an absolute unit (PA)

Reptiles come in all shapes and sizes – but now scientists think they’ve found the biggest.

Researchers have discovered a new species of salamander by identifying new varieties using DNA from a museum specimen. They reckon this type of giant salamander takes the prize for the world’s largest amphibian.

Chinese giant salamanders, now classified as critically endangered, were previously considered a single species (Andrias davidianus). But analysis by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Natural History Museum found three distinct genetic lineages in salamanders from different river systems and mountain ranges across China.

The three varieties – Andrias davidianus, Andrias sligoi and another new finding yet to be named – are genetically different enough to represent separate species, report authors say.

Published in the journal Ecology and Evolution on Tuesday, researchers found the South China giant salamander (Andrias sligoi) to be the largest of the 8,000 or so amphibian species alive today.

A new species of giant salamander – possibly the largest amphibian in the world – has been identified from a dead specimen that has been on display at the Natural History Museum for 74 years (ZSL /SWNS.COM)

The South China giant salamander was first proposed in the 1920s based on a salamander from southern China that lived at London Zoo. Researchers used the same animal – now preserved as a specimen in the Natural History Museum after living for 20 years at the zoo – to define the characteristics of the new species.

Professor Samuel Turvey, the study’s lead author, of ZSL’s Institute of Zoology, said: ‘The decline in wild Chinese giant salamander numbers has been catastrophic, mainly due to recent over-exploitation for food.

Chinese giant salamanders were previously considered a single species. (PA)

‘We hope that this new understanding of their species diversity has arrived in time to support their successful conservation, but urgent measures are required to protect any viable giant salamander populations that might remain.’


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