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  Supporting the Sustainable Management of Amphibian and Reptile Biodiversity

"Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can
change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has." --Anon.




Volume 5, Number 4

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 Table of Contents 


Survey techniques for giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae) and other aquatic Caudata. 2011. Robert K Browne, Hong Li, Dale McGinnity, Sumio Okada, Wang Zhenghuan, Catherine M Bodinof, Kelly J Irwin, Amy McMillan, Jeffrey T Briggler. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 5(4): 1-16.

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Japanese giant salamander   Rock turning

Summary: The fully aquatic Cryptobranchids are the world’s largest amphibians and the three described species range from threatened to critically endangered. Cryptobranchids present particular survey challenges because of their large demographic variation in body size from 3 cm larvae to 1.5 m adults, and the wide variation in their habitats and microhabitats. We review and compare the types and applications of survey techniques for Cryptobranchids and other aquatic Caudata from a conservation and animal welfare perspective.

The giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae): Part A. palaeontology, phylogeny, genetics, and morphology. 2012. Robert K. Browne, Hong Li, Zhenghuan Wang, Paul M. Hime, Amy McMillan, Minyao Wu, Raul Diaz, Zhang Hongxing, Dale McGinnity, Jeffrey T. Briggler. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 5(4): 17-29.

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 North American giant salamander  Fossil Andrias sp.

Summary: The Cryptobranchidae, commonly called the Giant Salamanders, are the largest surviving amphibians and comprise two extant genera, Andrias and Cryptobranchus. Because of their iconic status as the world’s largest amphibians and their biopolitical significance, all cryptobranchids are subject to major and expanding initiatives for their sustainable management. Knowledge of a wide range of scientific in concert with cultural, political, and economic factors all contribute to cryptobranchid conservation biology and the formulation of optimal strategies for their sustainable management. However, there has previously been no comparative review of the numerous scientific fields contributing to the knowledge of cryptobranchids, and little peer-reviewed material on A. davidianus and A. japonicus has been published in English. Here we present the first article in a series about cryptobranchid salamanders, “The giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae): Part A. paleontology, phylogeny, genetics, and morphology.” 

The giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae): Part B. Biogeography, ecology and reproduction. 2013. Robert K. Browne, Hong Li, Zhenghuan Wang, Sumio Okada, Paul M. Hime, Amy McMillan, Minyao Wu, Raul Diaz, Zhang Hongxing, Dale McGinnity, Jeffrey T. Briggler. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation  5(4): 30-50.

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Andrias japonicus

The massive size of Andrias species is illustrated in this photograph of a Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus). Image by Michael Ready. http://michaelready.photoshelter.com .

Summary: The Chinese (Andrias davidianus) and Japanese (A. japonicus) giant salamanders far exceed any other living amphibians in size, with the North American giant salamander (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) also being one of the world’s largest amphibians. Cryptobranchids are biologically similar in many ways including extreme longevity, a highly conserved morphology, low metabolism, males brooding eggs, and large larvae. However, there are differences in cryptobranchids' habitat and diet, reproductive behavior and seasonality, fecundity, egg size, mating strategies and paternity.  In “The giant salamanders (Cryptobranchidae): Part B", we review cryptobranchid range and distribution, demography and growth, population density and size, habitat, territoriality and migration, diet, predators, and reproduction.

In vitro culture of skin cells from biopsies from the Critically Endangered Chinese giant salamander, Andrias davidianus (Blanchard, 1871) (Amphibia, Caudata, Cryptobranchidae). 2013. Sarah Strauß, Thomas Ziegler, Christina Allmeling, Kerstin Reimers, Natalie Frank-Klein, Robert Seuntjens, Peter M. Vogt. Amphibian and Reptile Conservation 5(4):51–63.

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 Andrias davidianus tail clipping  Andrias davidianus melanophores

 Left - regeneration of A. davidianus tail after clipping, and right, a melanophore in cell culture.

Summary: We established a primary skin cell culture of the Critically Endangered Chinese giant salamander, Andrias davidianus, from small biopsies using minimally invasive methodologies. Biopsies were taken from three animals simultaneously with assessment of two biopsy sampling techniques using samples from the tail tip. Cell culture was performed in a wet chamber at room temperature. Several culture media and supplementations were tested as well as culture containers and surface coatings. The handling of A. davidianus in a landing net without transfer out of the tank allowed easier biopsy withdrawal. Best outgrowth of cells from explants was achieved in 60% DMEM/F12 medium with supplementation. Cells started to grow out as monolayer within the first 12 hours, and after three weeks formed pigmented multilayers, then died after 10 weeks. Primary cultures of  Andrias skin cells, as well as other amphibian primary cell cultures, can be used in future studies to evaluate effects of disease, pollution, regeneration, wound healing, and also could provide cells for use in reproduction technologies such as cryopreservation to preserve gene lines in this and other Critically Endangered amphibians with minimal harm.


A survey for the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus; Blanchard, 1871) in the Qing- hai Province. 2014. Pierson TW, Yan F, Wang Y, Papenfuss T. 2014.  Amphibian & Reptile Conservation 8(1): 1–6.

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Andrias davidianus habitat  Andrias davidianus habitat


Summary: The Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) was once common, but it has declined precipitously in the past several decades. An enigmatic specimen collected in 1966 represents the only historical record of the species from the Qinghai-Tibetan Plateau. From June–July 2012, we conducted opportunistic community inquiries and field surveys in Qinghai to attempt to locate Andrias. We received anecdotal evidence that additional Andrias have been found in recent years, but we failed to discover any Andrias during our field surveys. We suspect that relict populations persist in Qinghai, but the significant degradation of stream quality in the region likely threatens the long-term survival of any remaining Andrias. Here, we provide a brief overview of Andrias conservation, a summary of our surveys, and emphasize the importance of continued searches for this geographically disjunct population.


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     Dr Robert Browne

    Dr. Robert Browne President/International Coordinator

    Dr. Browne established the Internet based ARC in 2011 and expanded it globally in 2013. Robert is committed to achieving the ARC's goal to provide for the sustainable management of amphibians and reptiles. He has a wide international experience in herpetological conservation and has published over 40 scientific articles on amphibian and reptile conservation. see Biography