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  1. #1
    Skeeter's Avatar
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    Default Hellbender

    I remember seeing and catching these as a kid in western PA...



    Etymology
    The origin of the name "hellbender" is unclear. The Missouri Department of Conservation says:

    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". Another rendition says the undulating skin of a hellbender reminded observers of 'horrible tortures of the infernal regions'. In reality, it’s a harmless aquatic salamander.[1]

    Vernacular names include "snot otter", "devil dog", "mud-devil", "grampus", "Allegheny alligator", "leverian water newt", and "vulgo".[2][3] The genus name is derived from the Ancient Greek, "kryptos" (hidden[4]) and "branchos" (gill); a reference to oxygen absorption primarily through gills that are in a covered chamber and not lungs.[5]

    [edit] Physical description
    Hellbenders exhibit no sexual dimorphism, and both males and females grow to an adult length of 24 centimetres (9.4 in) to 40 centimetres (16 in) from snout to vent, with a total length of 30 centimetres (12 in) to 74 centimetres (29 in) making it the third largest aquatic salamander species in the world (next to the Chinese Giant Salamander and the Japanese Giant Salamander) and largest in the North America.[6] An adult weighs 1.5 kilograms (3.3 lb) to 2.5 kilograms (5.5 lb). Hellbenders reach sexual maturity at about five years of age, and may live thirty years in captivity. They have powerful jaws that can inflict a painful bite.

    C. alleganiensis have flat bodies and heads, with beady dorsal eyes and slimy skin. Like most salamanders, they have short legs with four toes on the front legs and five on their back appendages, and their tails are keeled to propel them through water. The hellbender has working lungs, but gill slits are often retained although only immature specimens have true gills; the hellbender absorbs oxygen from the water through capillaries of its side-frills.[1] They are blotchy brown or red-brown in color, with a paler underbelly.

    Hellbenders are completely aquatic, and although active on cloudy days, they are primarily nocturnal. 922

    [edit] Range
    The range of the eastern hellbender (C. a. alleganiensis) in North America extends from southwestern and south central New York, west to southern Illinois, and south to extreme northeastern Mississippi and with a heavy population in Eastern Tennessee as well as the northern parts of Alabama and Georgia. A disjunct population occurs in east-central Missouri. The Ozark hellbender (C. a. bishopi) subspecies exists as a disjunctive population in southeastern Missouri and adjacent northeast Arkansas. They also live in West Virginia and Maryland.

    [edit] Habitat

    A hellbender at the National Aquarium in Washington DCHellbenders inhabit large, fast-flowing, rocky streams below 750 metres (2,460 ft) in elevation. They can usually be found beneath large rocks in shallow rapids. They are less abundant in deeper areas of a stream, or areas which do not have flat piled rocks that offer them cover.

    By day C. alleganiensis stay under rocks or fallen logs, occasionally sticking their heads out. They may come out during breeding season or on overcast days to move about the stream. Most remain within a range of a few hundred square meters, although journeys of 3,500 metres (2.2 mi) by adults have been observed. They defend the rocks they live under from other hellbenders, and rarely share homes.
    Last edited by Skeeter; Dec-10-2010 at 10:41 PM.

  2. #2
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    Default Re: Hellbender

    Our version is called mudpuppy. They seem a little thicker and blunter than that picture, but you can tell it's one of them.

    I saw one in a small creek while deer hunting many years ago that had eaten a sucker that was longer than it could swallow. Inches of tail was sticking out of it's mouth.

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