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Chinese Giant Salamanders (Andrias spp.) Fact Sheet: Diet & Feeding


Wild populations

  • Limited study of diet in the wild (Browne et al. 2014)
  • Diet items (Song 1994; Luo and Kang 2009; Wang, Liang, Suo, et al. 2017, except as noted):
    • Freshwater crabs and shrimps (common)
    • Insects (common)
    • Fishes (common)
    • Small mammals (e.g., water shrews)
    • Earthworms
    • Lizards
    • Frogs
    • Snakes (Laidler and Laidler 1996)
    • Plankton (in larval life stage)
  • Earliest known dissection (AD 1120) noted that the stomach of one individual contained small fishes and small crabs (Liu 1950)
  • Similar diet observed in Andrias japonicus (Japanese giant salamander) (e.g., Hamanaka et al. 2020)

In farms

  • Typically fed fish (Cunningham et al. 2016)
    • Also farmed frogs


Prey detection and capture

  • Sit-and-wait (ambush) predator (Cundall et al. 1987; Browne et al. 2014)
  • Suck prey into mouth by quickly separating jaws (Heiss et al. 2013)
  • If prey located to left or right of head, salamander strikes by rapidly moving head to the side (Fortuny et al. 2015)
    • Relatively uncommon behavior among salamanders
  • Also see Senses

Feeding Time at the San Diego Zoo

Chinese giant salamanders strike their prey very quickly!

Watch one being fed behind the scenes at the San Diego Zoo.

© San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance. All rights reserved.

Broad Head, Full Belly

Buccal cavity suction by Chinese giant salamander

Buccal cavity suction by Chinese giant salamander

By opening their jaws in mere microseconds, Chinese giant salamanders create powerful water suction that pulls prey into their mouth.

The wide, broad head and skin of the lower jaw create this powerful water flow.


Image source: Heiss E, Natchev N, Gumpenberge, Weissenbacher A, van Wassenbergh S. 2013. Biomechanics and hydrodynamics of prey capture in the Chinese giant salamander reveal a high-performance jaw-powered suction feeding mechanism. J. R. Soc. Interface 10: 20121028. Figure 6a,e. Note: This is a cropped image.

Image credit: © The authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC by 3.0).

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