Batrachuperus tibetanus Schmidt, 1925
Listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species (2010). This salamander has long been used as a traditional Chinese medicine, which is believed to promote bone healing and relieve arthritis. Due to over-exploitation in recent years the population has declined dramatically. Chinese hobbyists also take many individuals from their natural habitat but have little success in keeping them for long, because this salamander only lives in cold stream water.
This salamander is distinguished from B. pinchonii and B. londongensis by the absence of horny coverings on palms and soles. It differs from B. yenyuanensis by having a shorter tail (shorter than snout-vent length) and inconspicuous or no tubercles on palms and soles. The dorsal tail fin starts from the tail base in B. yenyuanensis and only from the posterior 2/3 of the tail in B. tibetanus. It differs from B. karlschmidti by having black marblings on the dorsum (Fei et al., 2006).
Karyotype: 2n=62, 38 large or medium chromosomes and 24 micro-chromosomes.
The mitochondrial genome has been sequenced by Zhang et al. (2006). Allozyme data have been collected by Fu & Zeng (2008).
A moderate-sized, stout salamander. The body is rounded or slightly flat and the tail muscles are well developed. Head length is slightly longer than head width. Snout is rounded. The angle of jaw exceeds the posterior margin of eye. Labial fold is well-developed on upper jaw but not on lower jaw. The vomerine tooth patch is arched with 4-6 teeth (Fei et al., 2006). Tongue is oval with extensively free lateral margins. Gular fold extends to the lateral side of the neck (Liu, 1950). The original description (Schmidt, 1925) records 14 costal grooves, but Liu (1950) records 13 and Fei et al. (2006) claim 12 costal grooves. Another discrepancy comes from the distance between adpressed limbs. Chang (1936) describes the type specimens having fingers and toes overlapped when pressed against the body, but Liu (1950) and Fei et al. (2006) record a distance of 1 to 2 costal grooves between adpressed fore and hind limbs. Tips of digits are covered by horny epidermis (Schmidt, 1925). No interdigital webbing. Four fingers and four toes. Fingers length: 2>3>4>1; toes length: 3>2>4>1. Tubercles are absent or inconspicuous on palms and soles. Skin is smooth. There is a groove at the lateral side of the head (Fei et al., 2006). Vent of males is a transverse crescentic opening with a light-colored papilla followed by a longitudinal groove posteriorly. Vent of females is a simple longitudinal groove.
All measurements are from Fei et al. (2006).
Male (10 specimens). Total length: 175–211 mm; snout-vent length: 88.5–101 mm; Head length: 19.8–22.1 mm; Head width: 18.2–22 mm; forelimb length: 22–22.6 mm; hind-limb length: 25.7–28.5 mm.
Female (10 specimens). Total length: 170–197 mm; snout-vent length: 88.5–96 mm; Head length: 18.5–21 mm; Head width: 18.4–22.7 mm; forelimb length: 18.5–24.5 mm; hind-limb length: 21–29 mm.
For relationship with Batrachuperus karlschmidti, see taxon page of that species.
Central China: western Sichuan, eastern Qinghai and Tibet, southern Shaanxi and Gansu.
Inhabits the highlands, especially above 3,000 m. It lives in small mountain streams of 1-2 m width, also in streams of 4 m or more wide, 15-40 cm deep, with many stones. During daytime adults hide under stones and rotten wood. They are active at night and may occasionally be seen on the banks. Egg sacs, larvae and juveniles are found more upstream (Fei et al., 2006). Food consists mainly of shrimps and larvae of Machinidae and Perlidae.
Batrachuperus tibetanus reproduces once a year, mainly from May to August. But in Shan’xi, eggs are laid in April and hatch in June (Xu & Chen, 1992). The female lays a pair of egg sacs, attaching one end to stones, with 16 to 25 eggs in each egg sac, of 3.7 mm diameter. Egg sacs are 12 to 22 cm in length. When the larvae approach a length of 33-35 mm, a horny cover on fingers and toes appears; the dorsal fin starts from the back. At a length of 41 mm the dorsal fin begins from the tail base; at 49 mm dorsal and ventral tail fins become lower and gills become shorter; from 64 mm the gills start to shrivel and metamorphosis starts (Fei et al., 2006). At this stage it has all the adult characters and a distinct light-colored vertebral groove running from behind the head to the tail base (Liu, 1950).