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Checklist of Amphibian Species and Identification Guide

Hellbender, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

The Hellbender is one of North America's largest salamanders (the largest in terms of body mass), reaching lengths of up to 22 inches or more. Its large size, flattened body and wrinkles of loose skin make this salamander easy to identify. It is also entirely aquatic and transformation from larva to adult (metamorphosis) is incomplete with adults lacking eyelids and retaining one pair of gill slits. They live almost exclusively in rivers and streams that are not polluted, hiding by day under rocks and in crevices and foraging by night. They eat all sorts of invertebrates and even small fish They prefer streams with fast moving water and relatively constant temperatures. Breeding occurs in late summer or early fall. Males remain at the egg laying site and guard the eggs until they hatch, which can take 45-75 days. They are very slimy animals but this is their defense; many predators find their slime to be quite unpalatable. Two subspecies are recognized: the Eastern Hellbender, C. a. alleganiensis, and the Ozark Hellbender, C. a. bishopi. The Eastern Hellbender has small dark spots on its back and sides and a uniformly colored chin, while the Ozark Hellbender has larger black blotches and a darkly mottled chin.
Hellbender Range

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