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Chinese Giant Salamanders (Andrias spp.) Fact Sheet: Distribution & Habitat


Endemic to China

  • Prior to the 1970s, widespread in central and southern mainland China (Zhang et al. 2002; Wang et al. 2004; Dai et al. 2010; Browne et al. 2014)
    • Occurred in at least 17 provinces
  • Range-wide declines, especially from 1950s through 1970s (Wang et al. 2004; Dai et al. 2010)
    • Wild populations critically depleted or functionally extinct (Zhang et al. 2002; Turvey et al. 2018)
  • Range severely fragmented (Wang et al. 2004; Tao et al. 2005; Dai et al. 2010; Wang et al. 2017)
    • Remnant populations in underground rivers, and in isolated sections of creeks and rivers with deep pools (e.g., Wang et al. 2004; Luo et al. 2009; Su et al. 2009; Dai et al. 2010)
    • See Habitat, below
  • Hybrid individuals (A. japonicus x A. davidianus) present in Katsura River, Japan (Fukumoto et al. 2015)

Elevation range

  • Typically 300-900 m (1,000-3,000 ft) asl (Liu and Liu 1998; Dai et al. 2010; Liang et al. 2019)
    • Range: 100-1,500 m (300-4,900 ft) asl (Liu and Liu 1998; Wang et al. 2004; Frost 2019)
      • Reported as high as 2,500 m (8,200 ft) asl (Laidler and Laidler 1996) and 4,200 m (14,000 ft) (Chen 1989, as cited by Dai et al. 2010 and Pierson et al. 2014)

Historic distribution

  • Once occurred in all three major river systems in central and southeastern China (Wang et al. 2004; S. Chen et al. 2018)


Mountain streams with forest cover

(Liang et al. 2004)

  • Rocky streams and lakes at moderate elevation (Wang et al. 2004; Browne et al. 2014)
    • Water temperatures range from 5 to 25°C (41 to 77°F) (Browne et al. 2014)
  • Require adequate forest/vegetation cover (e.g., Chen et al. 2018)
  • Live in rocky dens, small crevices between or underneath large rocks, or in caves in river banks (Liu and Liu 1998; Browne et al. 2014)
    • Provides protection from predators and sun exposure (Zheng and Wang 2010)
    • In some regions, nearly all individuals live in riverbanks or underground rivers in limestone caves (karst) (Wang et al. 2004; Su et al. 2009; Luo, Tong, et al. 2018)
      • Underground habitats provide refuge from hunting and better water quality (Dai et al. 2010)

Habitat requirements

  • Cool, flowing water (Luo, Tong, et al. 2018)
  • Unpolluted water (Browne et al. 2014; Pierson et al. 2014)
  • Rocks, holes in banks, crevices in bedrock, or similar sites (Browne et al. 2014)

Habitat preferences

  • Large boulders (Cheng 1998; Zhang et al. 2017)
    • Provide shelter
  • Mud substrate covered by gravel (Wang et al. 2004)
  • Areas with high water flow (Nickerson 2004)
  • Den site with access to air surface for breathing (Zheng and Wang 2010)
    • Rest during the day, occasionally surface to breathe

Distribution of Chinese Giant Salamanders

Distribution of Chinese giant salamander

Though widespread in southern China as recently as the 1970s—today, Chinese giant salamanders are nearly extinct in the wild.

Individuals observed in natural streams are often those released from aquaculture farms.

Some small remnant populations may still exist in locations generally inaccessible to humans (e.g., underground cave pools).

Adapted from according to IUCN fact sheet.

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