Imagine an amphibian up to 5 ft (1.5 m) long that can weigh 80 lbs (36 kg) and snap chunks off your finger in a split second.
The Japanese giant salamander is one of the largest of its kind in the world: a mottled, slimy, living fossil that has changed little in millions of years. Being nocturnal and mostly aquatic, these super-salamanders are rarely seen. They lurk in cool streams in mountains and foothills. Though once caught for food, they’re now protected as a national treasure in Japan.
Hunting, pollution, and river damming brought their conservation status to “near threatened,” but now a nature center says it has made progress in breeding the giant salamanders.
“Although this is the second captive breeding in Japan, it’s the first in an indoor display tank,” said Akihiro Ito of the Hanzake Nature Museum of Mizuho in Shimane Prefecture. “It took us five years.”…