Thursday 9 July 2009

Does new discovery give hope to discovery of giant cryptid salamanders?

A recent discovery of a new salamander brought my mind back to the Cryptid giant salamanders .

A striking new species of lungless salamander has been found living in a small stream in the Appalachian foothills of the US. The salamander is so distinct that it's been classified within its own genus, a taxonomic grouping that usually includes a host of related species. The tiny animal averages just 25 to 26mm long. They found so few of the animals that either it is highly secretive, or more likely it survives in such small, isolated numbers that it is already at risk of extinction. The full story of the new discovery is here:

Giant salamanders were said to have been seen in the Trinity Alps wilderness area in California .It covers over 517,000 acres, so a very large area for something to hide in.

In the 1920’s Frank L. Griffith, was out hunting deer and reported that he spotted five Giant Salamanders at the bottom of a lake ranging from 5 to 9 feet in length. Mr. Griffith further reported that he was able to catch one of these Giant Salamanders on a hook, but was unable to pull it out of the water, forcing him to let the creature go.

In 1948, after hearing about Frank Griffith’s story, biologist Thomas L. Rodgers made four unsuccessful expeditions to the area to search for the Giant Salamander. Rodgers thought that these Giant Salamanders might be a type of Pacific Giant Salamander, perhaps mutated to great size by the isolated geography of the area.

Then n 1951 Herpetologist George S. Myers wrote a piece in the Scientific Journal in which he said that a link between the Trinity Alps Giant Salamander and the Asian Megalobatrachus made sense. Myers went on to recall his encounter with a Giant Salamander captured in the Sacramento River in 1939. He had been contacted by a fisherman who found the creature entangled in one of his catfish nets. Myers was able to study the specimen . It was a dark brown color not a slate grey colour found in the Asian Giant Salamander, and it also had dull yellow spots, known Giant Salamanders do not have these spots. Myers wrote:

“The animal was a fine Megalobatrachus, in perfect condition… It was between 25 and 30 inches in length…The source of the specimen is, of course, unknown. Its strange coloration even suggested the possibility of a native Californian Megalobatrachus, which would not be surprising, but no other captures have been reported.”

In the lat 1950’s Vern Harden of Pioneer California also claimed to have seen a dozen Giant Salamanders in a remote Trinity Alps lake known as Hubbard Lake. Harden also claimed that he managed to hook one of the creatures but was unable to pull it up, having to release it due to an oncoming snowstorm He estimated the creature to be about 8 feet long.. Harden’s claims made it to the ears of explorer and naturalist Father Hubbard, a Jesuit scholar that Hubbard Lake was named after. During 1958 and 1959, Father Hubbard and his brother Captain John D. Hubbard were associated with expeditions in search of the Giant Salamanders. In 1960 Father Hubbard stated that he had established the existence of huge amphibians in the region, but no record can be found of this, nor of the expeditions.

In 1960, after hearing about Father Hubbard’s announcement , Tom Slick went in search of the Giant Salamanders. He encouraged members of his Pacific Northwest Expedition, who normally researched into Bigfoot, to try to capture a live specimen of Giant Salamander. Slick and his team came back empty handed.

In September 1960, three zoology professors, Robert C. Stebbins of the University of California Berkeley, Tom Rodgers of Chico State College and Nathan Cohen of Modesto Junior College formed there own Giant Salamander expedition. Tom Rogers, who had lead several expeditions in 1948, later wrote that the team was accompanied by ten laymen who would sometimes mistake sunken logs or tree branches as Giant Salamanders. The team collected some Pacific Giant Salamanders, Dicamptodons, but the largest was only 11 ½ inches long.

In 1962 Roger’s’ reported debunking of the Giant Salamander seemed to put an end to most interest in the creature, until 1997 when Mizokami, a Japanese American writer, decided to hunt for The Trinity Alps Giant Salamander. Mizokami returned empty handed.

A member of the giant salamander family (Cryptobranchidae), commonly known as the hellbender is found in the eastern United States, but today, the largest salamanders acknowledged by science live in Asia, in exactly the same types of habitat as the American variety. They can grow up to 1.8m (6ft) in length. So had there once been an up to 8 foot sized family of salamanders living in the wilderness which had now died out?

Well if a new species of salamander has been discovered anything is possible.


Retrieverman said...

We do have a giant salamander that is very large called the "hellbender" or "Allegheny alligator."

They are related to Japanese giant salamanders, which can be 5 or 6 feet long.

Unfortunately for the hellbender, it requires rather clean water, and Appalachian mountain streams are becoming increasingly polluted. Further, where I live, the locals killed them, thinking they were a major threat to game fish (absolutely not true) and because they thought they were ugly (which they might be).

I'm glad we have a new species of salamander in Georgia. I wonder if the giant ones found in California were more of the hellbender type. Hellbenders are very aquatic salamanders, just as those California ones were claimed to be.

Also, West Virginia has a unique salamander that is found in a single spring and cave system in Greenbrier County, West Virginia:

Tabitca said...

Thank you for your illuminating comments. So it could be a possibility large salamanders once lived in the area, lets hope someone finds some evidence.

Emily said...

I saw a salamander in the redwoods of California that was 4-5ft in length. I'm still hoping one day I will go to google it and something will come up....

Biggjimm said...

I've talked to people in SW Oklahoma that have described what appear to be monstrous neotenic ambystomid salamanders that are locally referred to as walking cat fish. The appearance is similar to A. tigrinum but much larger, the adults are about 3-5 feet long, greenish black in color with a specking of yellowish markings arranged in rows down the side, with a body about as big around as a medium sized thanksgiving turkey and a head shaped somewhat like a shovel and comparable in size. The creatures seem to have small barbels. The local tribal name usually translates into horned otter.