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Cryptobranchidae Fitzinger, 1826

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Chapter Summary

The family, Cryptobranchidae Fitzinger, includes the largest living salamanders. Cryptobranchid salamanders are specialised for an aquatic habitat comprising cold, fast-flowing, rocky, and oxygen rich streams. Females lay long, paired strings of several hundred eggs, which are fertilised externally by the male. Metamorphosis is partial and the animals are permanently aquatic. Adults have a number of paedomorphic characters: they have small eyes, lack eyelids and have one pair of gill slits. The gill slits remain open in the American species, but are closed in the Asiatic species. There are two genera in this family, Cryptobranchus, the Hellbender, in eastern North America, and Andrias in China and Japan. The cryptobranchid genus Andrias includes two closely related forms, which likely diverged in the Pliocene. Despite a small degree of genetic differentiation, they are considered separate species. The species are Andrias davidianus and Andrias japonicus.

Keywords: American species; Andrias davidianus; Andrias japonicus; Asiatic species; Cryptobranchid salamanders



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