Hellbender

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C. a. alleganiensis (Eastern Hellbender)
C. a. bishopi (Ozark Hellbender)

The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) is a giant salamander, native to North America, which inhabits large, swiftly flowing streams with rocky bottoms. It is the only species within the genus Cryptobranchus, with two subspecies. The amphibian is the third largest species of salamander in the world, being surpassed only by the Japanese giant salamander and the Japanese giant salamander's close relative the Chinese giant salamander.[citation needed]

Contents

Etymology

The origin of the name "hellbender" is unclear. The Missouri Department of Conservation says:

The name 'hellbender' probably comes from the animal’s odd look. Perhaps it was named by settlers who thought "it was a creature from hell where it’s bent on returning". Another rendition says the undulating skin of a hellbender reminded observers of 'horrible tortures of the infernal regions'. In reality, it’s a harmless aquatic salamander.[1]

Vernacular names include "snot otter", "devil dog", "mud-devil", "grampus", "Allegheny alligator", "leverian water newt", and "vulgo".[2][3] The genus name is derived from the Ancient Greek, "kryptos" (hidden[4]) and "branchos" (gill); a reference to oxygen absorption primarily through gills that are in a covered chamber and not lungs.[5]

Physical description

Hellbenders exhibit no sexual dimorphism, and both males and females grow to an adult length of 24 centimetres (9.4 in) to 40 centimetres (16 in) from snout to vent, with a total length of 30 centimetres (12 in) to 74 centimetres (29 in) making it the third largest aquatic salamander species in the world (next to the Chinese Giant Salamander and the Japanese Giant Salamander) and the largest in North America.[6] An adult weighs 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb) to 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb). Hellbenders reach sexual maturity at about five years of age, and may live thirty years in captivity. They have powerful jaws that can inflict a painful bite.

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