Crayfish Beware!
January 24, 2008 6:13 AM   Subscribe

Hellbenders and Giant Salamanders live in various places around the world: China, Japan, and the United States. Some are only 12 inches long. Some are over 5 feet long. The National Zoo in Washington DC now has them too.
posted by onhazier (18 comments total) 6 users marked this as a favorite
According the Wikipedia page on Hellbenders, they are also known as "snot otters". This has made me inordinately happy.
posted by jontyjago at 6:23 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Like many amphibians, hellbenders are considered an indicator species, hence The Hellbender Press.
posted by kimota at 6:33 AM on January 24, 2008

We had one of those in our back yard when I was a little kid. My mom thought it might be some sort of Gila Monster (we lived in Michigan!) and wouldn't let us in the back yard until it was gone. It did look kind of scary - it had tiger tripes and was about 10 inches long.
posted by The Light Fantastic at 6:42 AM on January 24, 2008

I caught one in Bennett Springs, MO in high school. I didn't know anything could be so slippery.
posted by sourwookie at 7:01 AM on January 24, 2008

Are we still talking about salamanders?
posted by DU at 7:06 AM on January 24, 2008

Hellbender/snot otter is pretty much the most sinister name ever.
Snot and hell all at once.
posted by grapplingrobots at 7:06 AM on January 24, 2008

I was at the National Zoo earlier this month and saw the giant salamander. It's in the Panda area, nestled into a rock. There's a giant bronze statute of a salamander right by the glass that lets you see into its area. I had no idea that the statute was life size until I saw this mosntrous and huge thing in there, which caused me to jump a bit. I pointed it out to my partner and got a similar reaction. Then a five year old ran up and peered in, and shrieked "eeew eeew eeew" repeatedly while running away (ostensibly to find parents and repeat.

Snot otter may be a good nickname, but to me, that salamader will always be the eeew monster. They sure are gross.
posted by allen.spaulding at 7:17 AM on January 24, 2008

How about snotbender?

"Hey, did you see that crazy thing in the Hendersons' yard?"
"Yeah. That thing will bend the snot right from your nose."
posted by ORthey at 7:26 AM on January 24, 2008

I love this thread, and so will my boys. I have to say, I can see the "snot" part, but why the otter? I love the absurdity of the nickname.
posted by misha at 7:49 AM on January 24, 2008

but why the otter?

It's a fucking great otter, covered in snot. That's at least how I'm picturing it.
posted by jontyjago at 7:56 AM on January 24, 2008

but why the otter?

Because you otter snot touch it, you'll get some on yer.
posted by kuujjuarapik at 8:04 AM on January 24, 2008 [2 favorites]

Recent conversations with my husband and son about giant salamanders is what inspired this thread.

Here are a few more links:
Salamander fossils in China
An article about the explosive muscle power of the Salamander Tongue lead me to find out about the Giant Palm Salamander in Central America. However, they are only about 5 inches long.
posted by onhazier at 8:32 AM on January 24, 2008

Lovely post. I had never heard of giant salamanders, nor hellbenders. I'm unhappy about the name, being fond of amphibians. The name invites people to hate them, and hence, kill at any opportunity. Snot otter is much nicer, sounding gross but humorous. I only saw a salamander in the wild, in Michigan, once, and that was some babies inside a log.

In my garden pond in the UK, I had something living there that was some kind of salamander/newt/mudpuppy. Never got a good enough look to identify it.
posted by Goofyy at 8:37 AM on January 24, 2008

In an empty lot in a suburban neighborhood of Pittsburgh, there was this trickle of a spring that came out of some rocks, then re submerged about twenty feet later. We would reach into the hole the spring came from and occasionally pull out some kind of salamander thingy and take it home where it would die in a bucket of water. Now I feel bad about that and wonder how many millions of years those things had been breeding in that one little spring, and if they were some unique endangered species.
posted by StickyCarpet at 9:51 AM on January 24, 2008

Wikipedia has additional thoughts on where the name may have originated from:

The name “hellbender” probably comes from the animal’s odd look. Perhaps it was named by settlers who thought “it was a creature from hell where it’s bent on returning.”

Which is too bad, because I was well on my way to connecting this to some infernal version of Bender from Futurama.

Bite my snotty demonic amphibian ass!

posted by quin at 10:13 AM on January 24, 2008

Is that cloacal swelling or are you just happy to see me? Or both?
posted by space2k at 11:56 AM on January 24, 2008

We have some halfway decent sized newts out here on the island, but they get to maybe six inches long.

Remember that a lot of newts' skin secretions are poisonous, and it you handle one wash your hands before rubbing your eyes, licking your fingers, etc.

Amphibians are cool. Too bad we're killing them off.
posted by maxwelton at 12:01 PM on January 24, 2008

Snot otter may be a good nickname, but to me, that salamander will always be the eeew monster really fucking cool. They sure are gross awesome.

There's my version.
posted by Tehanu at 3:09 PM on January 24, 2008

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