Zoologists have found a genetically pure population of Chinese giant salamanders

(ORDO NEWS) — Zoologists have discovered a wild population of Chinese giant salamanders in the Jiulingshan Nature Reserve in southeast China.

Genetic analysis showed that these are representatives of a previously isolated line, while they did not have admixtures of other lines characteristic of other wild populations.

Scientists have described these salamanders as a new species – Andrias jiangxiensis. The study was published in the journal Zoological Research.

Until recently, the Chinese giant salamander (Andrias davidianus) – the largest modern amphibian with a body length of up to 180 centimeters and a mass of up to 59 kilograms (1) – was considered one species.

In 2004, it was listed in the Red Book of the International Union for Conservation of Nature as a species on the verge of extinction.

However, a few years ago, biologists found out that these amphibians are actually represented by several genetic lines that diverged more than four million years ago – that is, they should be considered different species.

In total, scientists counted eight lines, two of which (U1 and U2) were found only on farms – these salamanders are bred, as their meat is highly valued in China.

However, on farms, different lines interbreed with each other, and hybrids can be released into the wild, which harms wild populations – zoologists even suggest that initially wild populations no longer exist.

Jing Chai from the Kunming Zoological Institute of the Chinese Academy of Sciences and his colleagues from China, Canada and the United States in the Jiulingshan National Reserve in Jiangxi Province discovered a wild population of giant salamanders.

In 118 individuals, scientists took tissue samples and conducted a genetic analysis. It turned out that this population corresponds to the U2 lineage, which was previously found only on farms.

Scientists also found representatives of this line in two small farms located outside the reserve. The analysis also showed that neither the wild population nor the individuals on farms have admixture of other lines.

Biologists described the U2 lineage as a new species, which they named A. jiangxiensis, the specific name given in honor of Jiangxi Province. The new species differs from other lines not only genetically, but also in some morphological features.

Zoologists have found a genetically pure population of Chinese giant salamanders 2
Position of the new species Andrias jiangxiensis on the phylogenetic tree of Chinese giant salamanders. Clade D appears to be a species that was described in 1924 but later synonymized with A. davidianus

Scientists note that the population of A. jiangxiensis is the only known wild population of Chinese giant salamanders that does not have genetic impurities. The authors believe that their discovery highlights the important role of nature reserves in the conservation of endangered species.

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