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Using DNA from museum specimens collected in the early 20th century, researchers from ZSL (Zoological Society of London) and London's Natural History Museum identified two new species of giant salamander—one of which they suspect is the world's biggest amphibian.
Chinese giant salamanders, now classified as Critically Endangered, were once widespread throughout central, southern and eastern China. They have previously been considered a single species (Andrias davidianus). However, new analysis of 17 historical museum specimens and tissue samples from wild salamanders challenges this assumption.
Paper - Today - Journal - Ecology - Evolution
The paper, published today (17.09.2019) in the journal Ecology and Evolution, found three distinct genetic lineages in salamanders from different river systems and mountain ranges across China. These lineages are sufficiently genetically different that they represent separate species: Andrias davidianus, Andrias sligoi, and a third species which has yet to be named.
One of the newly identified species, the South China giant salamander (Andrias sligoi), was first proposed in the 1920s based on an unusual salamander from southern China that lived at the time at London Zoo. The idea was then abandoned but has been confirmed by today's study. The team used the same animal, now preserved as a specimen in the Natural History Museum after living for 20 years at the Zoo, to define the characteristics of the new species.
Species - Huangshan - Yellow - Mountains - Tissue
The other unnamed new species, from Huangshan (the Yellow Mountains), is still only known from tissue samples and has yet to be formally described.
The study's lead author, Professor Samuel Turvey of ZSL's Institute of Zoology, said: "Our analysis reveals that Chinese giant salamander species diverged between 3.1 and 2.4 million years ago. These dates correspond to a period of mountain formation in China as the Tibetan Plateau rose rapidly, which could have isolated giant salamander populations and led to the evolution of distinct species in different landscapes.
The decline in wild...
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