The Lifespan of a Chinese Salamander

Chinese salamanders (Andrias davidianus) -- more commonly known as Chinese giant salamanders -- are large, fully aquatic amphibians. They're surprisingly long-lived but their average lifespan varies depending upon whether they're wild or bred in captivity. They're currently endangered, so it's important they live long enough to breed and increase the population.

About the Chinese Giant Salamander

Chinese giant salamanders are the world's largest amphibians, reaching roughly 6 feet in length, although most specimens measure closer to 3 1/2 feet. As their name suggests, they're endemic to China, where they can be found in mountain rivers and tributaries at elevations below 1,500 feet. They're either brown, dark green or black in color, with irregular blotches on their skin. Their small eyes have no eyelids and are positioned on top of their heads, giving them poor vision.

Lifespan in the Wild

For logistical reasons, it's hard to determine the precise average lifespan of Chinese giant salamanders in the wild. However, it's thought that wild specimens can live roughly 30 years. This is a shorter amount of time than in captivity, because there are more threats and dangers for these creatures to face. Many wild salamanders may not even reach sexual maturity, which occurs at around 15 years of age.

Lifespan in Captivity

Although a Chinese giant salamander wouldn't make a good pet, they are kept in captivity by zoos, mostly as part of conservation efforts. In a captive environment, where they're well cared for and kept safe, these salamanders can live for around 50 years.

Threats

There are a number of threats to wild Chinese giant salamanders that can keep them from reaching their full potential lifespan. In fact, this species is currently listed as "critically endangered" on the IUCN Red List. Possibly the main threat to the species is from humans. In China, they're considered food, and excessive hunting has depleted their numbers. Although it's now illegal, plenty of poachers still capture and kill them. In addition, they've suffered extensive loss of habitat -- due to factors such as dam construction -- and degradation of habitat due to pollution.