The Chinese giant salamander looks like something that came straight out of a fifties science-fiction flick. They actually have more in common with black and white movie mutants than you might realize. You see, the giant salamanders found in China are actually man-made; just like what you’d expect from a fifties movie!
A recent study surprised researchers because while they thought they’d have no problem finding the animal, they were only able to find salamanders that had been grown on farms throughout China—no natural-born specimens.
The Chinese giant salamander is the largest amphibian in the world and it’s currently critically endangered. The fact that the researchers were unable to find any natural species is a serious cause for concern. While many farms breed the animals for their meat, simply releasing those farm-grown salamanders into the wild is not an answer to the problem.
The Chinese salamander apparently had a few sub-species within their natural environments but the farm-bred specimens are being bred into a single hybrid animal that may not be capable of surviving in the varying environments that the salamanders were originally accustomed to.
Certain experts involved in the study feel that the farm-breeding might actually be contributing to the extinction of the species. By homogenizing the salamanders, it’s believed that the farmers are reducing the genetic diversity and stopping the natural process of evolution.
Much like other species, the biggest threat to the giant salamander is illegal poaching. Some specimens can weigh up to 140 pounds, which can provide quite a bit of meat to villagers in and near the habitat of the salamanders. In fact, the meat from the animals is now actually considered a delicacy, hence the government-subsidized salamander farms.
When the number of species began to drop dramatically in the wild, the government began releasing the farm-raised specimens back into the wild, without actually realizing that there were different members of the species.
The recent research will be presented to Chinese authorities with the hopes of creating a better conservation plan for the giant salamander. Otherwise, it’s likely that natural-born, wild caught specimens will be a thing of the past.