Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
A fairly large newt among the Cynops species, the female measuring upto 16 cm, the male 12 cm. Head is a little longer than wide and high in the occipital region. The snout is short and rounded, reaching over the lower jaw. Distinct labial lobe. Eye big, situated dorso-laterally. Parotid glands are small. Gular fold more or less well developed. Stout body, a little higher than wide, no dorso-lateral ridges. Tail a little shorter than head and body, compressed at the base and high, featuring a crest on dorsal and ventral sides. Tail end is rather pointed.
Limbs are slender, the forelimbs have four digits and the hindlimbs have five. The digits do not have claws and are not webbed. The skin is smooth, but rougher than for instance in C. orientalis.
Colour is black on the back, with a distinct orange-coloured vertebral ridge extending onto the tail. Occasionally orange spots on head and sides of the body. Colour of ventral side red or orange with irregular dark spots, sometimes forming longitudinal rows (Chang 1936),(Thorn 1969). A noticeable orange-red spot behind the eye, at the corner of the mouth. This characteristic, along with an arched back, inconspicuous parotid glands and the colour of the tail in the male, led Zhao & Hu (1988) to place this species close to C. cyanurus. The male has a deep blue tail in the breeding season (Zhao 1998). The male cloaca is rounded but not very prominent, the female cloaca is a short fold.
Many mature specimens have gill vestiges of various lengths. One of the type specimens has gills and contains ripe ova (Pope & Boring 1940). This species shows a strong tendency toward neoteny. Eggs and larvae are not described. A good illustration is published with the original description (Boulenger, 1905, plate 17; copied in smaller format in Wolterstorff, 1926). Photos of preserved specimens in Wolterstorff (1934 plate 1), who remarked that this newt had a fish-like appearance, adapted to an entirely aquatic life.
In the genus Cynops at least seven species are currently recognized (C. pyrrhogaster and C. ensicauda in Japan, C. orientalis, C. cyanurus, C. chenggongensis, C. wolterstorffi and C. orphicus in China, and possibly another taxon in the Hong Kong area). In a number of species, subspecies are recognized. C. wolterstorffi was long placed in a separate genus Hypselotriton on the basis of studies in skull morphology (Herre, 1939; Pope & Boring, 1940; Thorn, 1969). The genus Cynops is characterized by a combination of a number of features: Long nasal process of the premaxilla; complete and large bony fronto-squamosal arch; small or non-existant internasal cavity. Well-developed paroccipital corners. Vomero-palatal teeth as in Triturus. No crest, but a more or less prominent vertebral ridge. Tail compressed laterally. Reproduction as in Triturus (Thorn 1969): courtship consisting of tail-fanning by the male; eggs deposited singly on water plants.
Three factors are held responsible for the presumed extinction of the species:
1. pollution of Kunming Lake, due to growth of Kunming city and increased disposal of industrial waste and domestic sewage in the lake;
2. decrease of suitable habitat by claiming land from the lake, especially in the northern part of the lake;
3. increased presence of natural enemies such as Grass Carp and duck and possibly the introduction of Bull Frogs (Rana catesbeiana) (Zhao 1998).