Andrias japonicus

TJ

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Took a little trip to Tokyo's Ueno Zoo











Awesome beasts! And these were the smallest of the six we saw there
. The others were not only more than twice as big as the larger of the two pictured above, but their heads looked to be three times as big. But they were too far back in the display tank to get clear shots...

(Message edited by TJ on October 05, 2003)
 
C

chris

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Holy Cow!!!! Massive
great photos - as ever you never cease to amaze!!!
Do you know what the zoo feeds them? Have they been bred?

Chris

(Message edited by froggy on October 05, 2003)

(Message edited by froggy on October 05, 2003)
 
J

john

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Hey Tim, thanks for sharing the photos!

I would advise you to stick a little (c) Tim Johnson on your photos though because you can be sure people will want to use these without your permission.
 

TJ

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Thanks guys. Here are some photos of the larger ones, which were some 3 meters away in a dark, cave-like area of the tank.



This vivarium is only 30 minutes away from my house, door-to-door, and it's on the way to work so I intend to eventually get some better shots of these monsters




I really must stress the size of these things -- enormous! I intend to call the zoo to find out exactly how large because most reference materials I have say A.japonicus (Japanese Giant Salamander) only get up to around 130cm (though one book says 150). And no
these are not A.davidianus (Chinese Giant Salamander -- which get even larger).



The camera I'm currently using (Nikon COOLPIX2000) is excruciatingly slow in processing shots, so I missed a great one when it opened its HUGE mouth 2-3 times wider than in this pic. A great salamander moment it was though!


John, I generally like to operate on the honor system, but sure, I wouldn't mind sticking a (c) on the photos as long as its small enough that it doesn't detract from the pics
 

TJ

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Sorry Froggy, but I dunno what they are fed. I would guess fish...but who knows? -- maybe naughty kids who tap on the tank glass (or bang on it, like one little brat was doing) get their just deserves
There was nobody around to ask questions. Can't find much info on the zoo's website either. I'll certainly ask about size, age estimations, feeding and breeding next chance I get. By the way, I seem to recall an earlier post on this forum mentioning the names of some zoos in North America that keep (and possibly breed?) this animal. I'll bet the eggs and the larvae are giant...
 
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jesper

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Hey Tim!
Amazing pics!
I thought all japanese children were nice!
Judging from Japans crime rate a lot of them must be anyway!
 

TJ

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Here's a news feature story from a couple years ago that's a good read:

Giant Salamanders Lurk in Japan
by Ginny Parker,
SASAYAMA, Japan (AP) -- It's big and slimy, with bulbous fingertips and a fat, flipper-like tail. It hides under rocks during the day and comes out to feed at night, sucking anything that passes into its wide, wart-studded mouth.
Lurking in the shadows of its river habitat, the giant salamander looks like something that slithered out of a science fiction movie. But this beast is a survivor from an ancient era, one of the world's largest amphibians at up to 5 feet long and a sovereign predator in the Asian waterways where it spends its life.

"It's a real relic," said Masafumi Matsui, a professor and amphibian expert at Japan's Kyoto university. "This animal has hardly changed for the past 20 or 30 million years."

For scientists, this primitive salamander found only in Japan and China, with a close but smaller relative in North America, is a key to understanding the roots of the Earth's biodiversity.

But even though it is protected from hunting and capture by Japanese law, the giant salamander's days may be numbered -- experts say the damming of many Japanese rivers has destroyed the rocky caverns and burrows where this salamander lays its strings of translucent eggs.

And many fishermen would prefer to see them go.

Fishermen in one of the salamander's last remaining habitats recently made headlines with complaints that the animal's unfettered breeding is cutting into the local population of sweetfish, a small fish prized by both people and salamander.

"We see the sweetfish get eaten by the giant salamander, so we know there's damage being done," said Takuharu Maeda, chairman of a fishing association here.

Local officials haven't measured the size of the sweetfish population, he added, "but we know our catch is getting smaller."

Scientists question the validity of these claims.

Takeyoshi Tochimoto, director of the Himeji City Aquarium and an internationally recognized authority of giant salamanders, said the animals do eat sweetfish but probably not enough to disrupt the population.

The Japanese giant salamander was put under protection in 1951, after its population was threatened by mountain people who ate it as a source of protein. Today, it's no longer part of the Japanese diet and its population has grown, but conservationists warn that without continued protection of its breeding grounds, it could easily slip into extinction.

Tochimoto admits much about the salamander's life is unknown. With government permissions, he's begun inserting tiny microchips into the shoulders of giant salamanders in the wild to help researchers monitor the elusive creature.

"This animal is at the top of the river's ecosystem," Tochimoto said. "If it survives, that means other living things are surviving as well. It's an important environmental symbol."

Albeit not a very pretty one.

The salamander's thick trunk is soft and wrinkled, glistening with a sticky mucus that smells remotely like rubber. Small legs splay awkwardly from its brownish, speckled body, and its tiny, lidless eyes are almost invisible, lost among the blotches and bumps that cover its large, flat head.

But the giant salamander, which can live for over 50 years and grows continuously throughout its life, has other things going for it besides beauty.

It can breathe both on land and underwater, staying immersed for long periods by absorbing oxygen through its skin. It gulps almost anything -- bugs, fish, mice, crabs -- into its mouth with a vacuum-like action, but can go without food for days, even months, due to a slow metabolism. The salamander itself, on the other hand, rarely gets eaten in the wild. It's simply too big.

"It's amazing that this salamander has survived for so long," said Noritaka Tomoda, an amateur scientist and salamander expert. "Maybe it'll outlive humans one of these day."

If they can keep finding places to live, that is.

"It's clear what's happening in Japan -- amphibian habitats are being destroyed," said Kyoto university's Matsui, who is studying salamander conservation methods that include building dams of stone to create the crevices where giant salamander, along with plants and insects, like to dwell.

Known scientifically as Andrias japonicus, the Japanese giant salamander is second in size only to the Chinese giant salamander, a close relative that looks almost identical.

Thirty-million-year-old fossilized remains of giant salamanders have been found in Europe, but today the nearest equivalent in the West is the hellbender, a smaller salamander but the largest in North America.
 
J

jesper

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Well the same problem for salamanders across the globe I guess, their habitat is threatened. This one has got to have a sizeproblem as well though. It cant be easy to hide something that big...
 
K

kaysie

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Tim, i'd posted recently about the Detroit Zoo keeping some of these monsters, and had inquired about the possibility of them breeding. but Ed K. dashed my hopes, saying he didnt believe they had. i'm kicking myself for forgetting the camera that day. they had some GORGEOUS beasts. also had a pair (or more??) of hellbenders... i'm thinking i'll have to make a special trip just to go get pictures :D
 
A

aaron

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Very cool pics, Tim.

To answer a few questions, they eat many invertibrates such as crawfish, crabs, shrimps, and worms.

Also, only one of the Andrias species has ever been bred in captivity, and never in a closed system. I forget which species it was(japonicus or davidianus) that was bred, but that was in artificial ponds with river water being piped through them. That is the only documented case of breeding(and it's been done this way at that facility for years).

~Aaron
 
R

ralf

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Hi all,
there's also been a documented breeding of A. japonicus in captivity over here several years ago (by K. Haker if I recall it right). This involved a garden house, large tank, cooler (I think) and the feeding of trout fingerlings. Let's see if I can dig up that article again. The offspring animals were given to enthusiasts and zoos (saw one animal with approx. 10 cm in Düsseldorf at the Löbbecke Museum). If I remember it right Klaus Mudrack from Berlin also received animals of this breeding and reported on their growth about 4 yrs ago in Gersfeld.
Don't know their current status though.

Ralf
 
E

erik

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Well...

Both species have been bred in captivity. Klaus Haker in Germany bred A.davidianus and I think it was in a closed system as described above.The event was published in the journal SALAMANDRA(in German).

The A.japonicus that are bred at Asa Zoo are housed in a flow through system(or they used to be) using a natural stream diverted into the tanks.

Among the other items listed above as prey,A.japonicus also eat a high percentage of frogs and I have seen at least one pic of stomach contents that included a large rat.I think frogs and crabs are the main food items for wild japonicus if I remember right.
 
R

ralf

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Sorry, confused species and names in my last post. Of course it was Wolfgang Mudrack who reported on raising A. davidianus in Gersfeld.

Ralf
 

TJ

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To add to what Erik was saying, the Japanese-language website of the Asa Zoological Park in Hiroshima City says that the zoo in 1979 succeeded in breeding A.japonicus in captivity for the first time, and has in subsequent years been breeding it regularly.

Here's an excellent site by Sumio Okada of Tottori University's Dept. of Environmental Sciences, with nice pics and info:

http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~herpsgh/theandras.html

And don't forget to click on this page of pics of a finger bitten by an A.japonicus


http://www3.ocn.ne.jp/~herpsgh/andrias_bite.html
 

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Kaysie, too bad you didn't have your camera on hand, but surely you'll have another shutter chance


According to International Species Information System (ISIS), the Japanese Giant Salamander (Andrias japonicus) can be found at the following zoo locations...

Amsterdam: 1
Buffalo: 2
Cincinnati: 4
Detroit: 5
Omaha: 1
San Antonio: 5
Tokyo: 7

...while the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) can be found at zoos in...

Barcelona: 1
Rotterdam: 5
Atlanta: 1
Cincinnati: 3
St. Louis: 2
Hong Kong: 2
Taipei: 8

Source: https://www.isis.org/

I don't know how accurate this info is, especially considering that the site lists Cynops ensicauda as "Brown newt" and Cynops ensicauda ensicauda as "Taiwan newt" and says the latter's range is Taiwan


(Message edited by TJ on October 08, 2003)
 
K

kaysie

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maybe we should develop and market some "Caudate Viagra" and sell it to the zoos.... maybe frog flavored?

at detroit, only one was out of hiding, with another head poking from under a log, and then a tail sticking out from the back. i dont think they had 5 in there. it was a pretty small tank for 5 of them...

now, curiosity is niggling me: what on earth to the babies look like? do they look like little ugly adults? lol. maybe they look like twigs instead of logs.
 

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Word has it that there are also some Andrias davidianus inhabiting rivers in Japan, having been imported into the country in past years and released into the wild. I haven't heard that they're actually breeding here, however.

For those in Britain, it seems a zoo in Bristol had received an Andrias japonicus from the Asa zoo in the past, but dunno if it's still there or not.
 

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Here's a pic of an A.j laying eggs
The eggs may seem small, but that's because they've yet to absorb water.



Source: The Encyclopaedia of Animals in Japan
Heibonsha Ltd., 1997

Check out some more amazing pics of eggs and larvae at this site:

http://www.rieo.net/amph/saramand/sansyouo/jpoosan.htm
 
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