British biologists performed DNA analysis of 17 exhibits of the London Museum of Natural History, considered the remains of Chinese gigantic salamanders Andrias davidianus. As a result of the study, experts found that some of the remains are genetically different from the others so much that animals should be classified as a different species.
Thus, scientists have identified two more types of gigantic salamanders - one of them received the Latin name Andrias sligoi (also researchers call it the South Chinese gigantic salamander), the second has not yet received a name. The findings were reported by the press service of the London Zoological Society.
Amphibians, or amphibians, are a class of vertebrate animals that can breathe both skin and lungs, and sometimes also gills. Now on earth there are about 8 thousand species of amphibians.
The creature, defined as Andrias sligoi, appeared at the London Zoo in the early twentieth century, lived for about 20 years, and after its death made an exhibit for the Museum of Natural History. Even during the first "acquaintance" with him, biologists suggested that they were dealing with a separate species, but then this idea was rejected.
It is worth noting that the gigantic salamanders are the largest living amphibians, and Andrias sligoi, according to scientists, in turn, is the largest species of gigantic salamanders. Thus, the new species discovered by scientists may be the largest amphibian at the moment.
At the same time, the remains of another distinguished species, which had not yet been given a name, were preserved not so well. From the animal only separate tissues remained, and therefore its external distinctive features scientists have yet to figure out.
- Archival image of Andrias sligoi from the museum's collection
- © ZSL
According to the lead author of the work, professor of the Institute of Zoology Samuel Tervi, the division of gigantic salamanders into several different species occurred from 3.1 to 2.4 million years ago in an era of strong geological activity. Perhaps it was caused by a sharp change in the living conditions of amphibians after the rise of the Tibetan plateau. The change in relief caused the isolation of large groups of salamanders, which contributed to their division into separate species.
Gigantic salamanders are now threatened with extinction. This is mainly due to unregulated hunting, since the Chinese use the meat of gigantic salamanders for food. However, the efforts of Chinese scientists across the country have deployed a network of farms and wildlife sanctuaries, which gives a chance to restore the population.
Melissa Mar, an employee of the London Museum of Natural History, added: “These discoveries came at a time when urgent intervention was needed to save the Chinese gigantic salamanders living in the wild. The results of our work indicate that for each individual species, individual measures should be taken to maintain genetic integrity. Our study also highlights the central role of museum reserves in the conservation of species that is on the verge of extinction. ”