This video from the USA is called Virginia Tech: Eastern Hellbender.
Hellbenders have the scientific name Cryptobranchus alleganiensis.
Ozark Hellbender Salamander Listed as Endangered. Cryptobranchus alleganiensis suffers from disease and habitat degradation: here.
Shenandoah salamander slipping away? BIOLOGISTS COUNT RARE CREATURES
Biologist Jennifer Sevin searches for the endangered Shenandoah salamander near Stony Man Mountain.
Date published: 8/6/2007
BY HANNAH NORTHEY
HARRISONBURG–Deep in the Blue Ridge Mountains of the Shenandoah National Park, a mystery lies in the shadows of stony cliffs and sinkholes.
That mystery is a 3- to 4-inch-long salamander that hasn’t been found anywhere else in the world–the Shenandoah salamander.
Officials don’t know how many of the salamanders live in the 300-square-mile park, said Gordon Olson, a supervisory biologist with the Shenandoah National Park.
But park officials hope that will soon change.
Jennifer Sevin, a biologist with the Smithsonian Institution, will study the salamanders at the Shenandoah National Park for the next three years to determine their population numbers and come up with a long-term management plan.
She said the health of the salamanders is a reflection of the health of the park’s entire ecosystem, and that amphibians are crucial to our everyday life.
“Amphibians are so important,” she said. “They’ve given us antibiotics, painkillers, HIV medication–they’re important to our society.”
Environmental change affects salamanders
Sevin said the Shenandoah salamander is one of many amphibians across the globe experiencing such a dramatic decline in their numbers that they face possible extinction.
“Shenandoah salamanders are so sensitive to environmental problems that what happens to their population is a signal for what happens to the world,” she said. “They’re canaries in the mine.”
Salamanders, resembling lizards, are lungless creatures with slender bodies, short legs and long tails. They have moist skin that they breathe through, making only habitats near water or with swampy conditions suitable.
The Shenandoah salamander was listed as federally endangered in 1989 because of its restricted range, limitations on expansion and potential threats within defined population areas, according to the National Park Service.
Historically, this salamander species has been found at elevations above 3,000 feet on Hawksbill, Stony Man and the Pinnacle mountains.
Although they’re protected within the limits of the park, the salamanders still face many threats, according to the Park Service.
Forest defoliation from infestation of nonnative insects and disease can alter the salamanders’ habitat, because it changes forest vegetation and soil organisms that the salamanders eat. Salamanders eat mites, flies, small beetles, springtails and other invertebrates in the soil.
Hiking, camping and trail maintenance also affect the salamander, according to the Park Service.
But, park officials say, a lack of information about the species may be the biggest concern.
A recovery plan for the salamander prepared by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1994 called for long-term monitoring of the amphibians. But, Sevin said, the monitoring has never been carried out.
Olson, who said there are no estimates of how many Shenandoah salamanders there are, said the national park has wanted to conduct research for at least five years.
Sevin, who also is working on her thesis at George Mason University, has received funding for her research from the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Park Service.
In May, Sevin began observing the salamanders at 16 sites on Hawksbill and Stony Man mountains. She’ll continue checking the sites through next fall so she can determine the best way to find the salamanders.
Sevin said the salamanders often only come out when it’s raining and dark, which is probably why so little is known about them, she said.
In the fall and spring of 2008, Sevin will study population densities by injecting colored plastic marker material into the limbs of the salamanders she captures, she said.
Later, she’ll be able to shine a black light on the animals and the marked salamanders will glow. She will then compare how many are marked and unmarked to better understand how densely populated the park is.
Sevin will also study to what extent the Shenandoah salamanders have been breeding with red-backed salamanders, a more common salamander.
She will clip the salamanders’ tails this fall to obtain DNA samples, which will show whether the two species have been interbreeding. The salamanders’ tails will grow back, Sevin said.
The lab work will be done over the winter, she said.
“It’s exciting to work on something so rare and different,” Sevin said.
Zoo helps hatch salamander scheme
Updated: January 12, 2011, 1:50 AM
The disappearance of the eastern hellbender has been a bit of a mystery for biologists working to save them.
Two decades ago, scientists started to notice fewer of the giant salamanders in the state’s rivers. Since then, fears have grown that the creatures could disappear.
“The numbers have been declining at an alarming rate,” said Mark Kandel, regional wildlife manager for the state Department of Environmental Conservation. “We want to make sure there are hellbenders around, when and if we get to the point when we figure out what’s causing their demise.”
So a team that includes the DEC and Buffalo Zoo is working to give hundreds of the giant salamanders a head start in the wild.
In a lab that will open to public viewing today, the zoo is raising 540 hellbenders from eggs that were collected from a river in the Southern Tier, in hopes of releasing them back into area waterways when they’re large enough to better survive.
The effort aims to keep the hellbender — currently listed by the state as a protected species of special concern — off the endangered species list.
“The hellbender recovery team was formed to kind of get ahead of labeling the hellbender as endangered,” said Penny Danielewicz, collections manager of reptiles and amphibians for the Buffalo Zoo. “We are working to see if we can use this head start project as a tool in hellbender conservation.”
Biologists studying their decline have noticed a gap between eggs that are hatched in the wild and the number that grow to adulthood. They devised a program that involved collecting wild eggs and raised the offspring in the zoo past the point when they are most vulnerable to predators, Kandel said.
“We’re not finding many of the younger, middle-aged hellbenders,” Kandel said. “And there’s any number of reasons why they may not be surviving through that middle part.”
The hellbenders in the zoo are just over a year old and have grown to about 3 or 4 inches since they hatched in late 2009. They are scheduled to be released back to the wild in 2013.
“We have had a lot of fun watching them develop and grow because they’re such a unique animal,” Danielewicz said.
The nocturnal creatures, she said, can whip their bodies back and forth — a characteristic that helped earn their name.
The zoo will give a presentation on the eastern hellbender during its “Warm Up With the Cold-Blooded” event from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
Scientists suspect that a number of factors — including changes in habitat, disease and human interaction — could be behind their declining numbers. As they have become more rare, the aquatic salamander has also become the target of poachers.
“We do know that there is some illegal trade in hellbenders,” Kandel said. “Especially as their numbers become depleted, protecting the large adults is extremely important because they’re the breeders.”
The eastern hellbender, which can grow longer than 2 feet, is the largest aquatic salamander in North America.
The DEC has also worked with the Department of Transportation to help replace large rocks used by the hellbenders as habitats in rivers and streams in the Allegheny watershed.
“It’s a pretty good example of what it takes to restore a species in decline,” Kandel said. “One agency can’t do it on their own.”
No I have not seen one. Would be cool to see one though! 🙂
Hi Alyssa, they are rare and decreasing in numbers.
After Chinese and Japanese giant salamanders, they are the biggest salamanders in the world.
I hope that you will see one.
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