London: Researchers have identified two new species of giant salamander — one of which they suspect is the world’s biggest amphibian — using DNA from museum specimens collected in the early 20th century. Chinese giant salamanders, now classified as Critically Endangered, were once widespread throughout central, southern and eastern China, researchers noted. They have previously been considered a single species (Andrias davidianus).
However, the new analysis by researchers from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and London’s Natural History Museum of 17 historical museum specimens and tissue samples from wild salamanders challenges this assumption.
The research, published 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, |researchers said.
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, they said. The idea was then abandoned but has been confirmed by this study, according to researchers.