The Chinese giant salamander, the largest living amphibian in the world, is a remarkable creature. Sometimes called a “living fossil,” the animal belongs to an ancient lineage spanning millions of years.
Due to overhunting and habitat destruction, the enormous amphibian is almost extinct in the wild. The International Union for Conservation of Nature considers the giant salamander critically endangered, and says the species has experienced a more than 80 percent population decline over the last 45 years.
Finding a Chinese giant salamander in the wild is thus a marvelous achievement in and of itself. Finding one that’s more than 200 years old? Well, that may just be a historic event.
According to local media reports, that’s precisely what happened last week when a fisherman in southwest China stumbled upon a giant salamander in a cave. The fisherman is said to have noticed the creature after accidentally stepping on something “soft and slimy,” per Mother Nature Network.
The salamander, which was discovered in the city of Chongqing, measures more than 4.5 feet in length and weighs over 100 pounds, China News Network reports.
Scientists say the salamander may be more than two centuries old. This would make the animal much older than other members of its species, which have an average lifespan of 80 years in the wild or 55 years in captivity. It would also rank among the oldest living animals on Earth.
The salamander has been transferred to a special research facility for study and protection.
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