Amy McMillan, professor of biology at Buffalo State, offered her expertise in a pair of national science news stories this week about Chinese giant salamanders, a critically endangered species which can grow up to nearly 6 feet in length.
A recent survey—published this week in Current Biology—conducted by a team of international scientists, located just 24 Chinese giant salamanders in the wild over a four-year period. A related study found that the salamanders discovered in the survey were likely escapees or released from commercial salamander farms. The second study also looked at the genetics of the Chinese giant salamander, which was originally thought to be one species. The researchers found at least five distinct genetic lineages in farm-bred and previously-captured wild salamanders. The mixing of genetics within farms, and between farm and wild populations, may have already led to the extinction of some lineages.
McMillan, who studies North American hellbender salamanders, told Maya Wei-Haas of Smithsonian.com, “If you have a small population, and you throw in a hundred new individuals, you can genetically swamp out that adapted population in a very short period of time.”
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