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Endangered: Rare 200-Year-Old Giant Salamander Found In Chinese Cave

Dec 16, 2015 01:32 PM EST
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An extremely rare Chinese giant salamander was recently "stumbled upon" outside a cave in Chongqing, China. This creature represents the largest living amphibian in the world, and possibly the oldest.

Chinese giant salamanders (Andrias davidianus) are nearly extinct in the wild due to overhunting and habitat destruction, prompting the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to list the species as "critically endangered." In fact, the IUNC says this freshwater creature has experienced a more than 80 percent population decline over the last 45 years.

According to local reports, a fisherman in southwest China discovered the creature when accidently stepping on something "soft and slimy." While this is a remarkable find in and of itself, what's amazing is the salamander is more than 200 years old, experts say. This makes the individual much older than other members of its species, which typically only live to about 80 years old in the wild or 55 years in captivity.

The newly found giant salamander is roughly 4.7 feet long and weighs over 100 pounds, according to Discovery News. Surprisingly, this is not one of the largest giant salamanders ever found – experts say individuals can grow up to 5.9 feet long.

The Chinese giant salamander is endemic to China and has a native range that spans central, southwest, and south regions of the country. They are slow-moving creatures that live and breed in freshwater mountain rivers and large streams in forested areas. These amphibians are also nocturnal, have poor eyesight and rely on suction-feeding to eat fish, salamanders, aquatic insects, crayfish, snakes, worms, crabs and shrimps.

Following the discovery, officials transported the salamander to a special research facility for further study and protection.

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