Japanese giant salamander Definition | Characteristics & Facts

giant salamander

Japanese giant salamander

Japanese giant salamander Definition

The Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus) is a species of amphibian native to Japan. Here’s a definition of the Japanese giant salamander:

Japanese giant salamander General Characteristics & Facts

Size and Appearance

The Japanese giant salamander is the second-largest salamander species in the world, reaching lengths of up to 1.5 meters (5 feet). They have a stout body with a broad head and small eyes. Their skin is wrinkled and typically brownish in color, although they can appear darker or lighter depending on their habitat.

Endemic to Japan

The Japanese giant salamander is native to Japan and can be found in various parts of the country, including rivers, streams, and rocky mountainous regions. They are particularly abundant in the western and central regions of Japan.

Aquatic Lifestyle

Japanese giant salamanders are entirely aquatic and spend their lives in freshwater habitats. They prefer clear, fast-flowing streams with plenty of hiding spots such as submerged rocks and logs.

Nocturnal Habits

These salamanders are primarily nocturnal, meaning they are most active during the night. They have poor eyesight but possess excellent sensory perception, relying on a keen sense of smell and vibration-sensitive sensory cells along their body to locate prey and navigate their environment.


Japanese giant salamanders are carnivorous and have a varied diet. They primarily feed on small aquatic animals such as fish, frogs, insects, crustaceans, and even other salamanders. They are opportunistic predators and will consume any prey they can overpower.


Breeding for Japanese giant salamanders typically occurs in the fall, with males competing for the attention of females. The males can be distinguished by their larger size and prominent skin folds on their heads. After mating, the female lays her eggs in an underwater nest, which the male then fertilizes externally. The eggs hatch after a few months, and the larvae undergo metamorphosis into juvenile salamanders.

Long Lifespan

Japanese giant salamanders have an exceptionally long lifespan compared to other amphibians. In the wild, they can live for several decades, with some individuals reaching 50 years or more. In captivity, where they are protected and well cared for, they have been known to live even longer.

Conservation Status

The Japanese giant salamander is classified as near threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Ecological Importance

Japanese giant salamanders play a vital role in their ecosystems as both predators and prey. They help control populations of smaller aquatic animals and contribute to nutrient cycling by consuming carrion. Their presence in freshwater habitats is an indicator of a healthy and balanced ecosystem.

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Physical Characteristics of Japanese giant salamander

  1. Size: The Japanese giant salamander is one of the largest amphibians in the world. It can reach lengths between 3.3 to 5 feet (1 to 1.5 meters) on average, although some individuals have been recorded to exceed 5.9 feet (1.8 meters) in length. It has a robust, elongated body.
  2. Body Shape: Japanese giant salamanders have a stout and cylindrical body shape, well-suited for their semi-aquatic lifestyle. Their body is relatively flat from the top, while the underside is rounded. They have short, stubby legs positioned at the sides of their body.
  3. Skin: The skin of the Japanese giant salamander is smooth, slimy, and wrinkled. It is typically dark brown or gray in color, which helps them blend into their rocky aquatic habitats. The skin is covered in small, raised bumps known as tubercles.
  4. Head and Mouth: The Japanese giant salamander has a large, broad head with a flattened appearance. It has small, beady eyes and a wide mouth. Their mouth is equipped with many sharp teeth, which are used for grasping and consuming prey.
  5. Gills and Lungs: As aquatic creatures, Japanese giant salamanders have external gills as larvae, allowing them to extract oxygen from the water. As they mature into adults, they develop lungs and rely on lung respiration, although they can still absorb some oxygen through their skin.
  6. Limbs and Feet: Japanese giant salamanders have four short, muscular limbs with clawed toes. These limbs are adapted for both swimming and crawling on land. The toes have slight webbing, aiding in swimming movements.
  7. Tail: The Japanese giant salamander has a long, muscular tail that tapers towards the end. The tail assists in swimming and provides balance and propulsion.

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Scientific Classification of Japanese giant salamander

Kingdom: Animalia (Animals)

Phylum: Chordata (Chordates)

Class: Amphibia (Amphibians)

Order: Caudata (Salamanders)

Family: Cryptobranchidae (Giant salamanders)

Genus: Andrias

Species: Andrias japonicus

Key Locations ofJapanese giant salamander

  1. Honshu Island
  2. Shikoku Island
  3. Kyushu Island
  4. Iriomote Island (Okinawa Prefecture)
  5. Yakushima Island (Kagoshima Prefecture)
  6. Amami Islands (Kagoshima Prefecture)
  7. Tokushima Prefecture
  8. Hiroshima Prefecture
  9. Gifu Prefecture
  10. Kyoto Prefecture
  11. Shimane Prefecture
  12. Nagasaki Prefecture
  13. Oita Prefecture
  14. Fukushima Prefecture

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Japanese giant salamander FAQs

What does Japanese giant salamander Eat?

The Japanese giant salamander primarily feeds on aquatic invertebrates, small fish, amphibians, and crustaceans

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