Cute little thing right? With a name like the Ozark Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi), you wouldn’t think so. It’s really only because, at up to 2 feet long, they’re super-sized.. They’re really ever even seen by humans, let alone a danger to us!
Living in the rivers and streams of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas, they’re completely aquatic salamanders. Despite having lungs, they’ve found a cool way to breathe.. Absorbing oxygen through the capillaries in their skin! These hellbenders are nocturnal, hiding under rocks by day and emerging at night to feed mostly on crayfish, but also on inverts, smaller fish and other salamanders!
It takes 5-8 years for an Ozark Salamander to become sexually mature. Living up to 30 years, this would potentially leave a lot of room for reproduction.. Especially since they can lay up to 450 eggs! Unfortunately, only a fraction hatch, even with the male ozark guarding them. They’re an endangered species with fewer than 600 individuals expected to be remaining in the wild. Habitat loss and other disturbances due to human recreation are at blame.. But strange enough, there’s also a fatal disease causing the decline of these salamanders. Chytrid fungus may be a large role in the population drop, especially since it is highly infectious and found in and around Missouri’s hellbender population.