Hellbender salamanders are healthier in warming waters

BY newsdesk  September 10, 2013 at 4:48 PM EDT

Photo: Rebecca Jacobson/PBS NewsHour

Large, slimy hellbender salamanders found in the Ozarks and Appalachian mountain streams are disappearing from their habitats. Land development, pollution, poaching all posed threats to the two feet long amphibians. Scientists believed that climate change and rapidly warming waters would choke the aquatic animals, which breathe through their skin.

According to a paper published in the Journal of Experimental Biology, rapid changes to water temperature made the hellbender salamanders healthier. The salamanders exposed to rapidly warming and cooling temperatures were better able to fight harmful bacteria than salamanders kept at a constant temperature.

Kim Terrell, a researcher at the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and lead author on the paper said in a statement:

“Not only were these results surprising, they were the exact opposite of what we had expected. Clearly, we need to understand how amphibians are influenced by weather patterns in order to accurately predict whether these species can survive in a changing climate.”

Read more of PBS NewsHour’s science coverage about hellbender salamanders.

H/T Rebecca Jacobson