New species of Chinese giant salamander discovered

A research group from the Zoological Society of London and the Museum of Natural History of London has identified two new species of giant salamander by analyzing 17 specimens of salamanders from historical museums and tissue samples from wild salamanders.

These amphibian animals, which are now considered endangered, were once found in large numbers in the regions of China. They have always been considered to belong to a single species, the Andrias davidianus, but this new study found three distinct genetic lineages.

For the moment, researchers have already classified an additional species, the Andrias sligoi, but a third species is still being classified. The Andrias sligoi was already proposed during the 1920s when an unusual salamander was analyzed in a London zoo. The idea was then confirmed by the study that appeared today in Ecology and Evolution.

According to Samuel Turvey, principal author of the study, the Chinese giant salamander species began to branch out with regard to the evolutionary profile between 3.1 and 2.4 million years ago.
In this period a large mountain range was formed in China that would have caused the emergence of the Tibetan plateau. This phenomenon would have isolated at least two populations of giant salamanders leading to different evolutionary lines.

However, due to recent human exploitation, China’s wild giant salamanders have declined so much that they have been classified as endangered animals. These animals are among the largest amphibians in the world and the newly classified Andrias sligoi can reach two meters in length.