This rough-skinned newt has distinct bony ridges on the sides of the top of the head. The body is a dark brownish-black color with orange or yellow pigment on the head (including parotoid glands), vertebral ridge, and dorso-lateral body warts. Most of the venter, tail, and limbs is also orange-yellow in color.
The etymology of the name is derived from the Mandarin "shan" (mountain) and "jing" (spirit or demon). This species was described and removed from T. verrucosus (the Burmese Newt) (Nussbaum et al. 1995). Tylototriton verrucosus has protected status but T. shanjing does not, though it has been proposed by Zhao (1998).
The taxonomic status of Tylototriton shanjing has recently been disputed. Zhang et al. (2007) recommended that T. shanjing be considered a synonym of T. verrucosus, on the basis of similarity in Cyt b. However, only a single sample of T. verrucosus was analyzed, from China; no samples were included from other parts of the range (India, Nepal, Myanmar, Thailand, Burma, Viet Nam, and probably Laos and Bhutan). In addition, Ziegler et al (2008) report that T. shanjing breeds true in captivity. Until a more thorough analysis of T. verrucosus is undertaken, the systematic decision to remove shanjing must be considered premature. (For an English translation of Zhang et al., e-mail Jennifer Macke, jpmackeATcomcast.net)
- Nussbaum, R. A., Brodie, E. D., Jr., and Datong, Y. (1995). ''A taxonomic review of Tylototriton verrucosus Anderson (Amphibia: Caudata: Salamandridae).'' Herpetologica, 51(3), 257-268.
- Zhang, M., Rao, D., Yu, G., and Yang, J. (2007). ''The validity of Red Knobby Newt (Tylototriton shanjing) species status based on mitochondrial Cyt b gene.'' Zoological Research, 28(4), 430-436.
- Zhao, E. (1998). China Red Data Book of Endangered Animals: Amphibia and Reptilia. Science Press: Endangered Species Scientific Commission, P.R.C., Beijing.
- Ziegler, T., Hartmann, T., Van der Straeten, K., Karbe, D., and BÃ¶hme, W. (2008). ''Captive breeding and larval morphology of Tylototriton shanjing Nussbaum, Brodie and Yang, 1995, with an updated key of the genus Tylototriton (Amphibia: Salamandridae).'' Der Zoologische Garten, 77, 246-260.
Distribution and Habitat
This newt is known only from the western Yunnan province in the People's Republic of China in the mountains along the Nu, Lancang, and Yuan rivers (Zhao 1998; Nussbaum et al. 1995).
The species is known from central, western and southern Yunnan, China, where it occurs along the Nu, Lancang and Yuan rivers, at altitudes of 1,000 to 2,500 m (Zhao, 1998; IUCN, 2010). The boundary between T. shanjing and T. verrucosus is not clear. The boundary could be the area near the Burma border in western Yunnan (Nussbaum et al., 1995).
A large and robust salamander. Head flat and oval, with strongly developed cranial crests and cranial boss. Nostrils close to the tip of the broad and rounded snout. Prominent glandular vertebral ridge. Dorsolateral row of 15 nodules on each side of body and anterior part of the tail. Fingers and toes not webbed. Skin of body and tail granular. Paratoids large and distinct, slightly concave. Gular fold present. Tail compressed laterally, with well-developed fin fold, a little shorter than snout-vent length. Tylototriton shanjing has ossified structures on the median part of the frontals and differs in this and various other characters of skull and vertebrae from T. verrucosus (Haller-Probst, 1998). Color dark brown on dorsum, with bright orange or yellow pigment on the head, vertebral ridge, and dorsolateral body and tail warts. Most of the venter, tail and limbs also orange-yellow. Ventral ground colour dark brown with dominant orange-yellow suffusion on chin, throat, and belly. Dorso-lateral warts round and widely separated (Nussbaum et al., 1995). Sexual dimorphism is poorly developed. There is discordance of sexual dimorphism among populations (Nussbaum et al., 1995). The cloaca of the male is characterized by a small longitudinal slit, that of the female by a small rounded opening.
All measurements are from Fei et al. (2006).
Male (10 specimens). Total length: 136–150 mm; snout-vent length: 68–77.8 mm; head length: 17–20.2 mm; head width: 14.6–16.5 mm; forelimb length: 21.2–24 mm; hind-limb length: 21.5–24.5 mm.
Female (10 specimens). Total length: 147–170 mm; snout-vent length: 80.2–86.3 mm; head length: 18.9–21.5 mm; head width: 15.8–18.3 mm; forelimb length: 22.2–25.3 mm; hind-limb length: 24.5–27 mm.
Dark-brown salamander with orange or yellow pigment on the head, vertebral ridge, and dorso-lateral body and tail warts. Most of the venter, tail and limbs also orange-yellow (Nussbaum et al., 1995). Strongly developed cranial crests and cranial boss. Skull surface is covered with prominent dorsolateral bony crests and a median crest on the parietalia. It differs from Tylototriton verrucosus in having the bright orange head, tail and dorsolateral nodules and having ossified structures on the median part of the frontals (Haller-Probst, 1998).
Habitat and Ecology
Inhabits hill forests and secondary forest and can be found in shady, moist places near rice-fields, ponds and irrigation canals (Zhao, 1998).
Life History and Behavior
Breeding season from May to August (Zhao, 1998). Reproduction takes place in water, but there is no direct information from field observation, so it cannot be excluded that mating may also take place on land. Courtship behavior was described for captive animals by Rehberg (1986): First week of May, water temperature 23 °C, males and females entered the water. Moving cheek-to-cheek opposite each other, the couple performed a love-waltz, turning in circles. The heads formed the centre, the outer sides of their bent tails forming the edge of a circle, an image resembling a spiral cloud. The male slowly fanned his bent tail in the direction of the female’s snout. Several observers have found that during this ‘love-waltz’ the male deposits a spermatophore, choosing a stone or other firm piece of substrate to attach it to. By continuing the rotating movement, the female is led over the spermatophore, which she picks up with her extended cloaca (Sparreboom, 1999). Thus far ventral amplexus, during which the male hooks his forelegs round the forelegs of the female from below, such as in T. verrucosus and Pleurodeles, has not been observed.
Eggs are deposited singly or in strings on aquatic plants in ponds, measuring 2.5 to 3 mm (Zhao, 1998). For egg-deposition mainly permanent ponds are used; eggs may also be laid in clutches on land near the pond (Xie, 1999; Li & Li, 2000). Diameter of egg including jelly envelope is 7 mm (Rehberg, 1986). Clutch sizes of 30-100 (Snider, 1998), 122 (Xie, 1999), 291 and 240 eggs (Rehberg, 1986) have been recorded. Larvae hatch after circa two weeks, at different stages of development. Larvae with remains of yolk are 13 mm; other larvae hatching with developed forelegs are a little longer (Rehberg, 1986). The fully grown larva has a tail as long as, or a little shorter than, head and body, its tip obtusely pointed. Color olive-brownish, thickly speckled with darker markings. Upper crest of tail not reaching the head. Skin finely or coarsely granular. Light-colored dorsolateral lines appear in the maturing larva; during metamorphosis the light color becomes concentrated in a row of light spots. Metamorphosis occurs about ten weeks after hatching, at a total length between 49 and 58 mm (Rehberg, 1986). Specimens are sexually mature at three to four years of age and a snout-vent length of 70–75 mm (Snider, 1998).
Evolution and Systematics
The systematics of Tylototriton shanjing and T. verrucosus are not yet clear. Frost (2011) follows Yang & Rao (2008) in considering T. shanjing a subspecies of T. verrucosus. This classification was supported by Zhang et al. (2007) using mitochondrial sequence data. Some population structures in T. shanjing were also found. However, only one T. verrucosus specimen was used in Zhang et al. (2007) and this was criticized by Stuart et al. (2010), who found moderate genetic divergence between T. shanjing and T. verrucosus. The level of divergence is similar to interspecific divergences in the asperrimus species group.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
2n=24, 1M, 2M, 3M, 4M, 5M, 6SM, 7SM, 8SM, 9M, 10M, 11M, 12SM, from Yang (1992). M: metacentric; SM: submetacentric; T: telocentric; ST: subtelocentric
Mitochondrial and nuclear sequence data are available in Zhang et al. (2007) and Stuart et al. (2010).
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
Tylototriton shanjing is common in central, western and southern Yunnan, and less common in the northern part of its range. It is collected for traditional Chinese medicine and for the pet trade (Li et al., 2010). Suitable habitat is reduced or degraded by development of infrastructure and tourism. In Mount Ailao, this newt was easily found in grasses at night near the wildlife workstation in 2007 but totally disappeared there in 2009 (Li et al., 2010). It is listed as Near Threatened by IUCN (2010) and as a class II protected species under China's wild animal protection law (Zhao, 1998).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Breeding occurs between May and August, and the eggs are deposited singly or in strings on aquatic plants in ponds or pools (Zhao 1998). This newt is completely terrestrial in the non-breeding season (Zhao 1998).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Newt populations are often threatened by human consumption (see "Relation to Humans" section), but are also increasingly threatened by the habitat destruction inflicted by growing human populations (Zhao 1998).
Relevance to Humans and Ecosystems
Relation to Humans
Tylototriton shanjing has a close associations with humans. It is regularly caught and dried for medicinal usage, and because of its beautiful coloration patterns, it is commonly sold in the pet trade industry.
The emperor newt (Tylototriton shanjing) is a highly toxic newt native to China.
The emperor newt, also known as the Mandarin newt or Mandarin salamander, can grow up to 8 inches (20 cm) long. It has a ridged orange head from which a single orange ridge runs along its back. This ridge is lined with two parallel rows of orange bumps on a black background. The tail and legs are entirely orange. The shade of the orange can be variable.
T. shanjing might seem like easy prey because of its bright coloration, however, it is generally nocturnal, and the top of its vertebrae and skull have especially thick bone. Additionally, the orange warts on its back are poison glands, and when the newt is grabbed, the tips of the ribs will squeeze out poison from the glands. Emperor newts have enough toxin to kill approximately 7,500 mice. Although poisonous, these newts are generally safe for human handling given that they are handled carefully and gently.
Range and habitat
Emperor newts live in the high mountain province of Yunnan, China, between 1,000 feet (300 m) to 2,500 feet (760 m) feet above sea level. They inhabit pools and slow-moving streams in subtropical forests.
The emperor newt usually eats small invertebrates in its environment, such as crickets and worms. Emperor newts in captivity are typically given wax worms, crickets, and earth worms.
For a long time, emperor newts were classified together with the Himalayan Newt (T. verrucosus).
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