The first species in my Weird Wildlife Wednesday series is the Ozark Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi). This organism is one of the world’s largest salamanders and the largest in the United States. It is only dwarfed by its cousins in China.
The Ozark Hellbender tops out at about 2 feet in length and is found only in Arkansas and Missouri in a region known as the Ozarks (that’s how they got their common name). They are aquatic and spend their long lives in rivers and streams. They were recently listed as federally endangered. Amphibians, including Hellbenders, are highly susceptible to environmental toxins, especially aquatic species. The Hellbender breaths partially through its skin, a phenomenon known as cutaneous respiration. The Hellbender’s many wrinkles and folds increase it’s surface area for breathing. You are very lucky if you get to see one of these guys in the wild, as their numbers are growing fewer and fewer.