A man in south China captured rare salamander that is considered to be the world’s largest known living amphibian and is dubbed the ‘Living Fossil’ because it has remained unchanged for over 170 million years.
The man, named Mr Xiao, was baffled to find the 13-pound, rare Chinese giant salamander swimming in the waters of Heyuan City in south China’s Guangdong Province. He housed it in a temporary tank, then released the creature back into the river shortly after.
While it may be one of the world’s oldest species – dating back more than 170 million years – there are very few surviving populations of giant salamander left in the wild. Surprisingly, its appearance has barely evolved since the Jurassic period.
The giant salamander is listed as ‘critically endangered’ on the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List and is a protected species in China.
The salamander population has declined significantly over the last several decades due to the destruction of its habitat and poaching. Despite its ‘critically endangered’ standing on the IUCN Red List, it’s still considered a status symbol on the dinner plates of China’s super-rich.
It has been suggested by some that the salamander has anti-ageing benefits, although there has been no conclusive evidence to confirm this.
However, with a government crackdown in place, this means that anyone found to be eating endangered species could receive a jail sentence of up to ten years.
The giant salamander is said to hold a treasured place in Chinese mythology. Local folks call them wawa yu , or crying baby fish, and in some areas are regarded as river spirits.