BEIJING — Researchers in London have identified a new species of salamander that may be the largest amphibian alive today.
Scientists used DNA taken from museum specimens collected in the early 20th century to identify two new salamander species from three river systems and mountain ranges in China.
The Chinese giant salamanders were previously considered to be part of a single species known as Andrias davidianus.
Scientists compared tissue samples from wild salamanders with historical specimens in the Natural History Museum London and discovered that the salamanders contained three distinct genetic lineages, according to a new study from the journal Ecology and Evolution.
Lead author of the study Samuel Turveyl from the Institute of Zoology explained in a news release that the salamanders may have evolved between 3.1 and 2.4 million years ago due to mountain formation in China and the rise of the Tibetan Plateau.
One of the newly identified salamander species, Andria sligoi, had its characteristics defined by a preserved salamander specimen in the British history museum.
The other newly discovered species has yet to be named or described and is only known from its tissue samples.
The authors of the study suggest that the Andrias sligoi is the world's largest amphibian species as it can grow to be around two meters in length.
Andrias davidianus, the previously known salamander species, is able to grow to be around one meter in length.