The Chinese giant salamander is generally active at night, when it relies on smell and touch to locate its prey. This huge amphibian lives in muddy, dark rock crevices along riverbanks and feeds on fish, smaller salamanders, worms, insects, crayfish and snails, catching them with a rapid sideways snap of the mouth (2) (5).
Like other amphibians, this salamander has smooth skin that lacks scales. The moist skin acts as a respiratory surface, where oxygen enters the body and carbon dioxide is released (4).
Mating behaviour has been described for the Japanese giant salamander (Andrias japonicus) and is probably similar for the Chinese giant salamander (4). Reproduction appears to take place from late August to September, when hundreds of individuals congregate at nest sites (4) (6). Males occupy breeding cavities which are aggressively guarded against intruders (6). Males compete viciously, with many dying from injuries (6). Females enter the cavities, lay between 400 and 500 eggs that are held together like a string of beads and then leave immediately (4) (6). The male fertilises the eggs, and protects them from predators such as fish, until they hatch 12 to 15 weeks later in the early spring (4) (7). The larvae are only three centimetres long and resemble adults in shape. As larvae they do have gills, and though they lose them quite early in life, they never fully lose all larval characteristics. Both the Chinese and Japanese giant salamanders are long lived, with one specimen in captivity living for 52 years (4).