It isn’t every day that you get to take a look back into the time of the dinosaurs. But last week, just such an opportunity arose for scientists in the southwestern city of Chongqing, China. A group of four spelunkers were the first to discover the nearly five foot long Giant salamander, which weighed in at over 110 pounds. After taking some videos of their find, they contacted local wildlife researchers who quickly descended on the scene.
The researchers and scientists who then went to the cave could not believe their eyes. The Giant salamander was among the largest found in China within the last century. While the species, which is the largest amphibian on the planet, can grow up to six feet in length, most do not survive long enough to reach such a mature size. To put it in perspective, the recently located animal is over 200 years old, and has survived due to the isolation of its tidal pool located in the remote caves.
The biggest problem facing Giant salamanders is that in China they are considered a delicacy. On top of this, their brown, rubbery flesh is believed to have curative properties that can improve the appearance of humans’ skin. As a result, they are often targeted by poachers, who have little trouble capturing the slow-moving animals in nets. During the 1960s, over 33,000 pounds of Giant salamander meat was harvested from a single prefecture in the Hunan province every year. Those are the sorts of statistics that makes the latest find so special.
Not wanting the fame of the Giant salamander to be its undoing, scientists moved the protected species to a pool inside of a local research center where additional tests will be run. While it is unlikely that this giant creature will ever be released back into the wild, the species as a whole has had a pretty good run. These ‘monsters’ have roamed the Earth’s waterways for over 170 million years and even lived alongside the dinosaurs. During that time, Chinese Giant salamanders have earned the name ‘wa wa yu,’ which translates to ‘baby fish, due to their distinctive call which sounds like a baby crying.