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Chinese Giant Salamanders (Andrias spp.) Fact Sheet: Behavior & Ecology

Activity Cycle

Nocturnal

  • Rest in dens during the day (Cheng 1998; Liang and Wu 2010)
    • Move outside of dens mostly at night
  • Thought to feed in late afternoon and at night (Cheng 1998; Liang and Wu 2010)
  • More active during the day during the breeding season (Nickerson 2004)
    • Low activity during winter; river temperatures very cold (Song 1989)

Movements and Dispersal

Movements in the wild

  • Appear to be resident to a small home range (Song 1989)
  • If current den destroyed, search upstream for new den site (Zheng and Wang 2010)
  • Limited ability to disperse, particularly between river systems (Yan et al. 2018; Liang et al. 2019)

Translocations by humans

Social Behavior

Social structure not well known

(Nickerson 2004)

  • Observed singly, as a pair of individuals, or as several pairs located near each other (Cheng 1998)

Communication

Vocalizations

  • Not well studied
    • Full range and repertoire not yet investigated
  • Calls during capture sound similar to a human baby’s cry (Shu-Cheng et al. 1990; Dai et al. 2010)
    • Needs confirmation
  • Mating call of male
    • Described by Cheng (1998) as wuwa-wuwa

Other communication

Agonistic Behavior and Defense

Defense

  • Swim into deeper water (Cheng 1998)
  • Hide in cracks and crevices of rocks (Cheng 1998)
  • Secrete milky-white mucus, if caught (Shu-Cheng et al. 1990; Cheng 1998; Browne et al. 2014)

Aggression

  • May bite when competing with a rival male, or when captured and removed from water by humans (Cheng 1998; Nickerson 2004; Benjamin Tapley, personal communication, 2019)

Territorial Behavior

Territorial

  • Most territorial during breeding (Zheng and Wang 2010; Browne et al. 2014)

Ecological Role

Influence declining

  • Where still present, an important predator in freshwater ecosystems in China (Zhang et al. 2017)

Interspecies Interactions

Japanese giant salamander

  • Some evidence of competition and hybridization with the Japanese giant salamander, Andrias japonicus (Fukumoto et al. 2015; Wang 2015)

Relationship with humans

Locomotion

Aquatic

  • Rest, immersed in water, or swim (Laidler and Laidler 1996)
  • Not strong swimmers (Laidler and Laidler 1996; Zheng and Wang 2010)
    • Move upstream using paddle-like tail, and by gripping and pushing against rocks with feet

Against the Stream

Chinese giant salamander in the wild (cBen Tapley)

Chinese giant salamanders are not strong swimmers.

To move upstream, they grip and push against rocks with their feet, along with thrusts of their paddle-like tail.

Image credit: © Benjamin Tapley/Zoological Society of London. All rights reserved. Used with permission from the artist.

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