A pair of baby albino Japanese Giant Salamanders (Andrias japonicus) discovered this past spring in a mountainous area of Hiroshima prefecture are being kept at Hiroshima's Asa Zoo for the purpose of ecological research. The two specimens were found along with three other albino salamanders at the same location.
The Japanese Giant Salamander, which can grow up to 140 cm (4 ft. 8 in.) long and live for up to 80 years, is an endangered species that has been officially designated one of Japan's living national treasures. Young Japanese Giant Salamanders typically have black skin that develops into a mottled brown and black with age, and the occurrence of albinos is extremely rare. The discovery of a group of albino Japanese Giant Salamanders is unprecedented.
The salamanders were discovered in a mountain stream near the town of Kitahiroshima when farmers were diverting water to their fields. A sandy area became exposed as the water level fell, revealing a group of thirty salamander larvae, five of which were albinos.
Chie Ashikaga, a zookeeper with 35 years of experience in raising Japanese Giant Salamanders, says, "I've never heard of anyone finding five albinos together. This is due either to environmental changes or to genes passed on by one of their albino parents. With many mysteries surrounding the Japanese Giant Salamander, these specimens might give us a better understanding of the ecology."
Asa Zoo will place the albinos on public display beginning October 21.
[Source: Asahi Shimbun]