{News Flash} Sperm of the Snot Otter

Go ahead. Say it out loud.

Okay okay, I’m not going to lie to you guys: I literally laughed out loud when I read the words “snot otter” and saw this rather-adorable-in-an-ugly-way creature below the headline:

Cryptobranchus alleganiensis, via NatGeo

This little cuddlebug is known as a Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) and is one of the largest salamander species in the world. It’s native to eastern North America and can grow to a little less than 2.5 feet long – that’s a big salamander! They live like other salamanders, in streams and beneath logs, and have a nocturnal habit. They’re so big that their main food item is crayfish. Apparently no one knows where their name comes from, but I seem to remember reading once somewhere that that early settlers considered salamanders to be from the Devil; certainly finding this beast would have been surprising and perhaps terrifying.

So why are they in the news? Because in the last few decades, they’ve just about vanished from their home ranges. Researchers think pollutants, hormones, and siltation in their waterways are contributing factors, but the fact is that no one knows for sure. Hellbenders are secretive and are now only found in small pockets across their historic range.

They’re also nearly impossible to breed in captivity. So the Feds are considering extending protection to the Hellbender, and now it appears as though freezing Hellbender sperm may be a step towards protecting the species. Cryogenic freezing protects the sperm so it can come back to life when thawed. Conservationists think this might help reproduction in the species, but the article doesn’t mention whether they’d use the sperm for wild populations or attempt captive breeding.

Either way, these slimy, mildly toxic, and all-around awesome critters are deserving of preservation, so let’s hope that making little salamander spermsicles works out.

Original article: National Geographic, August 20, 2010.

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More?

Here’s Google’s page on Hellbender images.

Fun facts about Hellbenders from the Nature Conservancy!

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Posted on August 22, 2010, in News, Tweets, & Links and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. It is a sad fate when we force ourselves to protect wonderful species like this by freezing their genetic material so that they can be recreated. Talk about a God complex.

  2. Snot otter sounds like something that recently came out of my daughter’s face.

  3. Hence my hysterical laughter.

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