Monday, May 16, 2022

[Herpetology • 2022] Andrias jiangxiensis • Discovery of A Wild, Genetically Pure Chinese Giant Salamander (Urodela: Cryptobranchidae) creates New Conservation Opportunities

Andrias jiangxiensis 
 Lu, Wang, Chai, Yi, Peng, Murphy, Zhang & Che, 

in Chai, Lu, Yi, Dai, Weng, ... et Che, 2022.
 Jiangxi Giant Salamander | 江西大鲵  ||  DOI: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2022.101

 Effective conservation of threatened biota relies on accurate assessments and scientific guidance. As an unfortunate example, Chinese giant salamanders (Andrias, CGS) remain critically endangered in nature. Misguided conservation efforts, e.g., commercial propagation and releasing of millions of likely non-indigenous or interspecific hybrids, have further compromised conservation initiatives. Limited information on wild populations of CGS poses a significant conservation challenge. Following 18-month long field monitoring, we now report the discovery of a wild population of CGS in a closed nature reserve in Jiangxi Province, China. Genomic assessments reveal its genetic distinctiveness and do not detect genetic admixture with other species. Based on morphological and molecular evidences, we describe this CGS as a new species Andrias jiangxiensis sp. nov. This is the only known species of CGS today with a genetically pure, reproducing, in situ population. This discovery emphasizes the important role that closed nature reserves play in protecting species, and the necessity of integrating long-term field monitoring and genetic assessments. It sets a new pathway for discovering and conserving endangered species, especially for those biotas that are similarly being extirpated by anthropogenic translocations and overexploitation.

Key words: Conservation,  Human translocation, Genetic homogenization,  Field monitoring, Taxonomy 

Andrias jiangxiensis sp. nov. Ontogenetic variation in coloration pattern
A: Coloration of dorsum with spotted pattern in a juvenile with body length of ~20 cm.
B: Coloration of dorsum having larger patch patterns in an adult with body length over 50 cm.
 Photos by Mu-Rong Yi.

Andrias jiangxiensis sp. nov. Lu, Wang, Chai, Yi, Peng, Murphy, Zhang, and Che

Diagnosis: Andrias jiangxiensis sp. nov. can be distinguished from its congeners by a combination of the following characters: (1) head length almost equal to width; (2) head and lower jaw relatively smooth, with small tubercles arranged irregularly; (3) lateral neck fold discontinuous with body fold at forelimb insertion; (4) finger III distinctly longer than finger I; and (5) dorsum red-brown or yellow-brown in life, with large, irregular black patches.

Etymology: The specific epithet “jiangxiensis” refers to the type locality of the new species in Jiangxi, China. It denotes the endemicity of the new species to Jiangxi based on our detailed population surveys. We suggest Jiangxi Giant Salamander as its English common name, and 江西大鲵 (Pinyin: Jiāng Xī Dà Ní) as its Chinese common name.
The habitat of Andrias jiangxiensis sp. nov. in Daqi Mountain, Jing’an County, Jiangxi, China
A, B: Summer (A) and winter (B) scene of 8–10 meters-wide stream with excellent vegetation coverage.
C: A breeding cave for A. jiangxiensis sp. nov. found in a backwater bay of the stream. Red arrow indicates the exit of the cave.
D: Enlarged area near the exit of the cave. Dashed circles in cyan indicate six larvae of A. jiangxiensis sp. nov., and the ones in white indicate the co-occurring shrimps and fishes.
Photos by Mu-Rong Yi.

Jing Chai, Chen-Qi Lu, Mu-Rong Yi, Nian-Hua Dai, Xiao-Dong Weng, Ming-Xiao Di, Yong Peng, Yong Tang, Qing-Hua Shan, Kai Wang, Huan-Zhang Liu, Hai-Peng Zhao, Jie-Qiong Jin, Ru-Jun Cao, Ping Lu, Lai-Chun Luo, Robert W. Murphy, Ya-Ping Zhang and Jing Che. 2022. Discovery of A Wild, Genetically Pure Chinese Giant Salamander creates New Conservation Opportunities. Zoological Research. 43(3): 469-480. DOI: 10.24272/j.issn.2095-8137.2022.101