The Japanese giant salamander, being restricted to streams with clear cool water, is entirely aquatic and nocturnal. It has a very poor eyesight, and therefore depends on special sensory nodes on its forehead to detect even the slightest movement in the water. It feeds mainly on insects, frogs and fish. As it has a very slow metabolism and lacks natural competitors, it is a long-lived species, with the record being an individual that lived in the Natura Artis Magistra, the Netherlands, for 52 years.
A captive Japanese giant salamander
The Japanese giant salamander was first catalogued by Europeans when the resident physician of Dejima island in Nagasaki, Philipp Franz von Siebold captured an individual and shipped it back to Leiden, the Netherlands, in the 1820s.
The Japanese giant salmander is threatened by pollution, habitat loss (among others by silting up of the rivers where it lives), and over-collecting, as it is considered a delicacy in the local cuisine. It is considered near threatened by IUCN, and is included on CITES Appendix I.
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