One of the biggest and oldest salamanders on Earth was recently discovered in a cave in south-west China, and some speculate that it might be 200 years old.
The Chinese giant salamander, also known as Andrias davidianus, is the largest salamander and amphibian in the world, reaching a length of 5.9 feet (180 centimetres). The newfound rare, giant salamander was discovered by a fisherman. After he contacted the authorities, they sent the creature to a facility for further research and analysis.
In 2014, another giant salamander – which was four feet long (121 centimetres) – was found and then transferred to the Zoological Society of the London Zoo for care and protection. Researchers used the salamander, nicknamed Professor Wu, to raise awareness about the population decline of the Chinese giant salamanders, and to urge the development of new conservation projects.
Over the last few decades, the population of Chinese giant salamanders has declined drastically. Because of demand for salamander meat and due to habitat destruction, the salamanders are in serious danger. The Chinese government listed the world’s largest amphibian as Class II Protected Species.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) also listed the Chinese giant salamander as critically endangered.
Although over the past thirty years there has been an 80 percent population decline, the Chinese government still has not regulated the hunting of these endangered salamanders. To cope with the demand of salamander meat, there has been an increase in salamander breeding farms. However, a lot of giant salamanders are still captured from the wild.
Some have suggested that the newfound giant salamander is 200 years old, but experts say that normally the species does not live that long.
Dr. Theodore Papenfuss, a herpetologist and researcher at the University of California, Berkeley, says that the oldest salamander he has heard of is 50 years old and it lives in captivity, so he believes that in the present case 200 years is quite a stretch.
There are other creatures that have a really long life span. For instance, a giant clam called Ming lived 507 years, before being accidentally killed by researchers in 2006. A giant tortoise, named Harriet, from the Galápagos died at the age of 176 in 2006.
There is also a species of ‘immortal’ jellyfish which turns itself into a polyp colony when it dies (which is the first stage in the life of a jellyfish). Then the polyp colony regenerates itself into small copies of the original jellyfish.