Researchers have discovered a new species of Vietnamese salamander that looks like it has emerged from an abyssal volcano. The salamander was found hidden away in Tokyo’s National Museum of Nature and Science, the scientists described the species in the new edition of Current Herpetology. Coal-black with orange-tinted toes, the new crocodile newt (in the genus Tylototriton) was determined to be a new species when it showed morphological and genetic differences from near relatives. Despite its remarkable appearance, the researchers say these are typical colors for crocodile newts.
The scientists named the new species Ziegler’s crocodile newt (Tylototriton ziegleri) after Thomas Ziegler of Cologne Zoo who works with reptiles and amphibians in Vietnam. The new species is small, with males measuring 5.4 to 6.8 (2 to 2.6 inches) centimeters and females measuring 7.1 centimeters (2.7 inches). While genetic testing proved that it was a new species, the morphological differences were key.Ziegler’s crocodile newt is currently only known from only a small habitat of montane forest and wetlands.
“Currently, habitat loss and degradation, especially around the breeding ponds, is a major threat to the populations of the new species,” the researchers write in the paper. “Legal protection of their habitats and regulation of excessive commercial collection are important measures for conservation of this species.” Crocodile newts are popular in the illegal pet trade and are often over-collected from the wild. There are now ten known species, eight of which have been evaluated by the IUCN Red List. Of these eight, three are threatened with extinction, four are listed as Near Threatened, and only one is Least Concern.
In the salamander family, newts have rougher skin than other salamanders as adults. Most of the world’s salamanders are in the newt family, also known as efts.