The Japanese giant salamander, as you can tell by the name, is a giant salamander living in Japan. More specifically, this salamander lives in southern Japan. These animals have three names in Japanese: Osanshouuo, Hanzki, and Hajikamiio (Don’t worry if you can’t pronounce them perfectly!). All three of these names are derived from the Japanese words “sansho” and “hajikami.” These are names for a certain pepper. Why would a salamander be named after a pepper? Because they secrete a mucous from their skin that smells like this pepper.
This nocturnal animal is the second largest salamander and the second largest amphibian in the world, only smaller than the Chinese giant salamander. Like last week’s animal the African lungfish, Japanese giant salamanders can breathe both above and under water. These animals have small eyes that are often hard to distinguish from the warts and other bumps all over this salamander’s body. Due to their small size, the Japanese giant salamander’s eye are not very good at seeing. If you look at the picture above, the eyes can be seen in a straight line to its hand on the right. It almost looks like the salamander is smiling! Here is one video about this animal and another one is here.
Much of Japan is mountainous, seventy-three percent in fact. Because of this, Japanese giant salamanders live in the mountains. Adults live in mountain streams and rivers that are typically fast flowing and cold. This is unusual, for most salamander adults live out of the water. These animals have also been seen in rivers and streams in urban areas.
During the day, Japanese giant salamanders sleep beneath rocks, but at night they hunt their prey. Because they have very poor eyesight, it does not really matter whether they hunt at night or during the day. They are the only large predators in their environment and therefore do not have much competition. The fish they hunt are rare, but Japanese giant salamanders have bumps on their head that detect minute changes in water pressure. When an individual senses a fish nearby, it will thrash out its head, take hold of the struggling victim, and then eat it. Other food includes mice, snakes, frogs, insects, crabs, and worms. Click here to see a video of this animal hunting
As I said earlier, the Japanese giant salamander is the world’s second largest amphibian. These animals grow up to five feet (1.5 m) long compared to the Chinese giant salamander which grows up to six feet (1.8 m) long. The reported maximum weight for these creatures varies from fifty-five to one hundred pounds (25-45 kg). Regardless of their exact size, these salamanders are definitely giant as their name suggests.
Mating and eggs
In early August, these salamanders meet together at mating sites that the males have made. Such sites consist of pits or burrows. Multiple females will lay up in between four hundred and six hundred eggs into the burrow, and the males will then fertilize the eggs. The males will also guard the eggs during the twelve to fifteen weeks it takes them to hatch.
After hatching, the young start metamorphosing into adults. During this period, they lose their gills. The average lifespan of a Japanese giant salamander is about twenty years, but some sources say they can live for up to fifty years!
Status and threats
Japanese giant salamanders are classified as near threatened by the IUCN redlist. Although there is no definitive number of Japanese giant salamanders in the wild, it is estimated to be in between thirty-thousand and fifty-thousand. The reasons for such low numbers include habitat loss and hunting. While the rivers and streams these animals live in still remain, they are becoming polluted or clouded by soil as a result of erosion from deforestation. Japanese giant salamanders are hunted for their meat which is a delicacy in Asia. The meat from a single adult can sell for up to one thousand dollars! There are now restrictions on the trade of Japanese giant salamander meat, and reforestation efforts are being instituted in order to save this species and many other amazing animals.
Don’t forget to scroll down and comment your guess about what the next animal is!
- Animals of the world. Tom Jackson, ISBN: 978-1780191089
- Animal: The Definitive Visual Guide. David Burnie and Don E. Wilson, Smithsonian Institution, ISBN: 978-0-7566-6002-4
- Japanese giant salamander – V31S70
- Mystery animal – Bäras