Sunday, 20 December 2015

Giant 200-year-old salamander found hiding in China cave

DECEMBER 17, 2015
by Brett Smith

Giant salamanders are both comically bizarre and fascinating natural specimens with amazingly long lifetimes. In fact, a giant salamander was recently discovered in southwestern China that experts say is around 200 years old!

This pre-American Civil War creature found in a cave near Chongqing, China measures more than four-and-a-half feet long and weighs almost 115 pounds, according to Chinese state media and reported by Gizmodo. Considered critically endangered, giant salamanders are currently under threat from hunting, pollution, and climate change. This particular big guy was transferred to a research facility for care and study.

One recent study on the strange amphibian revealed that it's capable of striking at prey in front of it and at either side. The study team used three-dimensional modeling to explain the unusual quick-strike feeding mechanism.

The team also found that once the amphibian has its prey caught, it draws it to the back of the jaw to perform an even more robust bite, stopping its would-be victim from getting away. The authors suspect that this skill may be associated with the structure of the creature’s skull. Unlike that of most other salamanders, the giant salamander’s skull does not have a connection linking its upper jaw with its side-jaw area.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, said the find could explain how early tetrapods and amphibians fed.

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