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JAPANESE GIANT SALAMANDERS (Andrias japonicus)
The Japanese Giant is endemic (found only there) to Japan, where is inhabits clear slow moving mountain streams, and feeds on a variety of small aquatic animals.
At a length of up to 1.5 m (~5 ft.), Japonicus is the 2nd largest salamander (or amphibian for that matter) in the world.
The paddle like tail belies the strictly aquatic life of the Giant Salamander. The folds on skin on the side of the body increase the skin surface available to absorb more oxygen from already oxygen poor waters.
At up to 1.8 m (~6 ft.), the Chinese Giant Salamander is the largest amphibian species in the world.
Though they can achieve lengths up to 6 feet, they rarely do.
The Chinese Giant is very closely related to the Japanese Giant Salamander; having similar diet, habitat type, metabolic rates and sensory traits. Similarly, the female lays eggs in an underwater den, and the male protects the eggs until the young hatch.
The Chinese Giant is even more threatened than the Japanese Giant, and is actually considered Critically Endangered, due to habitat degradation and destruction, as well as over collection for food and traditional Chinese medicine.
Although there is an international effort to breed them in captivity, there has been difficulty in getting them to do so in significant numbers to aid in the recovery of their populations… and these guys aren’t helping with their awful taste in music. Dude, she’s not gonna get in the mood with Ace of Base playing!
The genus name Andrius, which means “image of man”, was coined by European scientists because the man who originally named a fossil of a close relative of this salamander (A. schleuchzeri) believed that he had found an ancient human fossil. It was later recognized as being not only human, but quite salamander. Later, European scientists learned of the Chinese and Japanese Giant Salamanders and realized they were closely related, enough to be int he same genus.