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Giant salamander
Andrias japonicus.jpg
Andrias japonicus
Scientific classification
Cryptobranchus japonicus
Giant salamander.

The giant salamanders are a family of large aquatic amphibia, the Cryptobranchidae.

They are the largest living amphibians. The Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus), reaches up to 1.44 m (4.7 ft), feeds on fish and crustaceans, and has been known to live for more than 50 years in captivity. The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can reach a length of 1.8 m (5.9 ft).

They live in brooks and ponds in the eastern United States (the hellbender), and in China and Japan.


Cryptobranchids are large, fat salamanders, with folds of skin along their flanks. These help increase the animal's surface area, allowing them to absorb more oxygen from the water.

Their metamorphosis from the larval stage is incomplete, so that the adults retain gill slits (although they also have lungs), and lack eyelids.

Chinese giant salamanders have lived as long as 75 years in captivity. It eats aquatic insects, fish, frogs and also crabs and shrimps.

Hunting habits

They hunt mainly at night, and as they have poor eyesight, use sensory nodes on their head and body to detect tiny changes in water pressure, allowing them to find their prey.


During mating season, these salamanders will travel upstream. After the fertilization of the eggs, the male will guard them for at least six months. At this point, the offspring will live off their noticeable stored fat until they are ready to hunt. Once ready they will hunt as a group rather than individually.

Scientists at Asa Zoo in Japan have recently discovered that the male salamander will spawn with more than one female in his den. Sometimes the male "den master" will also allow a second male into the den, but the reason for this is unclear.

Scientific names

Andrias schleuchzeri
Andrias scheuchzeri, a fossil salamander, found in 1726
  • Genus Cryptobranchus (hellbenders)
    • Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis )
  • Genus Andrias (giant salamanders)
    • Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus)
    • Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus)
  • Genus Aviturus (Aviturus exsecratus)
  • Genus Zaissanurus (Zaissanurus beliajevae)

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