JPN Press: Chinese giant salamanders threatening native species

W

wes

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<u>JAPAN TIMES</u> (Tokyo) 20 February 07 Chinese giant salamanders threatening native species
Tokushima (Kyodo): Giant salamanders inhabiting rivers in central and western parts of the country may be a nonnative species from China that threatens endemic species, according to recent DNA findings that have alarmed biologists.
"This poses a huge problem for us in terms of protecting (Japanese) giant salamanders," said Masafumi Matsui, a Kyoto University professor and amphibian expert whose research group released the findings.
Biologists studied giant salamander habitats in various parts of the species' range between 2005 and 2006. After analyzing DNA taken from 22 animals, they were astonished to find that four were the Chinese species.
The Japanese giant salamander, which can reach more than 1 meter in length and live up to almost 100 years, inhabits rivers in the central and western parts of Honshu, and in Shikoku and Kyushu.
The rare animal used to be hunted for food and medicinal purposes but is now strictly protected by law, having been designated as a special natural monument in 1952.
Its critically endangered Chinese relative, which is the largest of all amphibian species, is ostensibly protected in China, though it is mass bred under license for human consumption.
The two sister species are not easy for nonexperts to tell apart by appearance, making it difficult to assess the extent of the invasive species problem.
In years past, before an international ban on trade in Chinese giant salamanders came into effect, many were imported to Japan for human consumption, with one dealer in Okayama Prefecture having acquired 800 in 1972 for sale to restaurants.
http://search.japantimes.co.jp/cgi-bin/nn20070220a6.html

<u>KYODO NEWS </u>(Tokyo, Japan) 18 February 07 Giant salamanders in Japan found to include invasive Chinese species
Tokushima, Japan: Many giant salamanders that inhabit rivers of central and western Japan may be a nonnative species from China that poses a danger to the endemic species, according to recent DNA findings that have alarmed Japanese biologists.
''This poses a huge problem for us in terms of protecting and securing our (Japanese) giant salamanders,'' said Masafumi Matsui, a Kyoto University professor and amphibian expert whose research group revealed the findings.
http://home.kyodo.co.jp/modules/fstStory/index.php?storyid=299194
 
K

kyle

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hmm. Strange this news is popping up now.

When I first started doing research (my research consisted of a large paper in highschool ;) lol, but still...) on Giant Salamanders nearly 4 years ago I was told by my mentor that there was a small known population of davidianus somewhere in the middle of Japan, and one of the papers I read may of had that information as well, but I wouldn't know which one had that information. Just saying this probably isn't a complete surprise to the Japanese researchers. Chances are the information my mentor had came from Sumio Okada, but thats just a rational deduction.
 

TJ

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Hi Kyle. Yeah, suspicions started years ago after people came across giant salamanders that looked unlike Andrias japonicus. This created the momentum for a DNA survey a couple years ago of giant salamanders in the Kansai (Kyoto, Osaka) area that turned up some A. davidianus. So now, this new survey has covered a wider range, encompassing western Japan, Kyushu and Shikoku.

It's not surprising that there are some A. davidianus loose in the wild here. After all, over the past couple of decades they've turned up in rivers in the Kanto area (the area around Tokyo) even, which is outside the natural range of A. japonicus. This is because so many were once imported for the restaurant trade before A. davidianus too became an protected species. What is perhaps surprising is that there was such a high ratio of non-native ones, and also that among the four A. davidianus were at least one quite young one, suggesting this species has settled in and is breeding. I've yet to come across anything yet that says they're interbreeding.

Hi Wes. Those two stories you cited are the same story, since it's a Kyodo exclusive (Japan Times is a Kyodo member-subscriber).

(Message edited by tj on February 23, 2007)
 
J

joseph

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Well, I guess if zoos are looking for specimens of A. davidanius, here is a relatively enviro friendly way to get them.
 

TJ

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Well, one thing I find a little strange is that the Japanese zoos and aquariums I know that do already keep A. davidianus don't display them but instead keep them in the backyard. I guess they'd rather have A. japonicus on display and have visitors take pride in it as a native species and "special natural monument."

I don't know yet what they plan to do now with the A. davidianus found in the wild. Repatriate them to China?
They'd probably end up in the pot over there. The species is protected under CITES, but I guess they could send them CITES-certified to zoos overseas if there's a demand. I would imagine it's not so easy for overseas zoos to acquire A. davidianus from China.
 
J

jennifer

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It's hard to imagine A. davidianus being an invasive species! But I see how it could happen.
 
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