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Kidadl Team

AUGUST 05, 2021

Hellbender Salamander Facts You’ll Never Forget

Hellbender facts are interesting.

Are you interested in learning about a new animal? Hellbenders are the largest salamanders in North America. They are large aquatic salamanders found from southern New York to northern Alabama, mainly concentrating in the North American region. They are called several strange names like mud-devil, snot otter, devil dog, mud dog, Allegheny alligator, and grampus. They are mainly found under large rocks in swift-flowing streams and rivers. They are found in two groups: the Eastern hellbenders and the Ozark hellbenders. The scientific names are Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi for Ozark mud dogs and Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis for the Eastern hellbenders. The eastern hellbender Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis is smaller in size than the Ozark hellbender cryptobranchus. The eastern ones are Threatened species while the Ozark ones are an Endangered species in Illinois Indiana. Each type of Hellbender is blessed with unique characteristics. Keep reading to know more amazing Ozark Hellbender facts, Eastern Hellbender Facts, and more.

If you like what you are reading, check out marine toad and Mantella facts for more relatable content.

Hellbender Interesting Facts

What type of animal is a Hellbender?

The mud-dog is the largest aquatic salamander.

What class of animal does a Hellbender belong to?

The hellbender is an amphibian.

How many Hellbenders are there in the world?

As of now, only 590 Ozark hellbenders are left in the wild. Their numbers are massively decreasing due to the destruction of habitat and degradation.

Where does a Hellbender live?

The hellbenders live in streams on the eastern coast of the United States. They prefer living under rocks and come out to hunt during the night. Their flat bodies are adapted to hiding their bodies under rocks in fast-flowing streams.

What is a Hellbender's habitat?

The mud dogs prefer to live in streams, preferably under large rocks in fast-flowing streams. They are found crawling in the bottom of slit-free, clear, mountain streams with an abundance of irregularly shaped, large, intermittent rocks. They do not like muddy banks or slab rock bottoms or slow-moving waters.

Who do Hellbenders live with?

Hellbenders are solitary creatures who like to keep to themselves. They come together during the breeding season but outside they can be very territorial and aggressive. They even chase off intruders from their region. If a fight breaks out between two equal contenders it can either be resolved peacefully or can lead to a fight. If a fight occurs between a bigger and smaller contender, the smaller one remains at risk of being eaten.

How long does a Hellbender live?

The hellbender salamander lives up to the age of 25-30 years.

How do they reproduce?

The hellbenders have an uncommon method of reproduction. They reach sexual maturity between the ages of five to eight. They mate by external fertilization, unlike other salamanders. During the initial days of the mating season, the male one locates a safe space for setting up his nest. Then he guides the female to the nest where she lays her eggs. After the eggs have been laid, the male disperses his sperm over the eggs after positioning himself slightly above or alongside the eggs. He then proceeds to drive out the female and stays back to protect the developing eggs for about 10-12 weeks.

What is their conservation status?

The number of giant salamanders has been rapidly decreasing from as early as 1957 according to the fish and wildlife service. The main threats to their lives are the destruction of their habitat which occurs due to industrial and agricultural pollution, accumulation of slit, channelization of rivers and streams, and the rising temperature of the water. They need cool, flowing, well-oxygenated water as hellbenders breathe through their skin. The construction of dams changes the water temperature and leads to lower oxygen levels, thus hampering the hellbender populations.

Hellbender Fun Facts

What do Hellbenders look like?

This mud dog is the largest salamander in the United States. Their coloration ranges from blotchy brown to reddish-brown with a paler underbelly they can reach lengths of up to 29 in but most would be between 12-15 in. Their bodies are flat with flat heads, tiny, dorsal eyes, and slimy folded skin. Their front limbs have four toes and their back limbs have five and their tails are keeled for propulsion. The Ozark hellbender is larger than its eastern counterpart.

The snot otter is an interesting animal.

How cute are they?

The giant salamanders are not considered cute because of their slimy folded skin and aggressive looks.

How do they communicate?

To avoid predation, hellbenders use chemical signs as well as detecting movements in the water. Jacobson's organ, an olfactory canal found in the snout of hellbenders, is used to perceive these signs. Their eyesight is very poor and so they rely on their lateral line senses and sense of smell.

They are generally solitary creatures and communicate only during breeding season with the help of physical gestures and pheromones.

How big is a Hellbender?

The mud dogs are the largest salamanders in the United States at 11-27 in (295-686 mm).

How fast can a Hellbender run?

Hellbenders do not run. They swim or crawl sluggishly under fast-flowing streams or rivers.

How much does a Hellbender weigh?

The average weight of the hellbenders ranges from 14.3-35.6 oz or 405-1010 g.

What are their male and female names of the species?

The male counterpart is known as a male hellbender and the female counterpart is known as the female hellbender.

What would you call a baby Hellbender?

There is no specific name for a baby hellbender.

What do they eat?

Snot otter exhibits certain cannibal-like behavior. Although about 90% of their diet consists of crayfish, they will also eat small fish, insects, worms, and in certain cases, smaller hellbenders. Sometimes they also eat the larva or eggs of other hellbenders or even their own.

Are they dangerous?

Hellbenders are not dangerous or poisonous contrary to popular belief. They mostly do not try to bite. However, during mating season, the males do tend to become aggressive and territorial of their region often chasing away others.

Would they make a good pet?

Although they are not dangerous, it is not a good idea to pet a hellbender. It is illegal to keep hellbenders as pets as they are endangered in Indiana and threatened or endangered in certain other states.

Did you know...

Hellbenders have been on the planet for around 150 million years.

They do not use their lungs to breathe, instead, they use them for buoyancy.

Is the Hellbender endangered?

The Ozark hellbender Cryptobranchus is listed as an Endangered species as per the Endangered Species Act since 2011. While some other populations are healthy, hellbenders, in general, have been listed as Nearly Threatened by the IUCN. Due to degradation and habitat loss, the threatened species is also alarmingly close to the Vulnerable status.

Different types of Hellbender

There are mainly two subspecies of the hellbender - the Ozark hellbender and the Eastern hellbender. Their scientific names are Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi and Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis respectively. The Ozark is smaller than the eastern one with a mottled dark chin and larger black blotches on its body.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly animal facts for everyone to discover! Learn more about some other amphibians including pool frog, or Goliath frog.

You can even occupy yourself at home by drawing one on our Hellbender Salamander frog coloring pages.

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