Launched in January 2007, ZSL's EDGE of Existence programme prioritises species for conservation attention according to their degree of unique evolutionary history (Evolutionary Distinctiveness) weighted by conservation urgency (Global Endangerment, representing threat status according to the IUCN Red List). The world's most Evolutionarily Distinct and Globally Endangered (EDGE) species are not only on the verge of extinction but are also totally unique in the way they look, live and behave. These irreplaceable species include the long-beaked echidna (one of only two types of egg-laying mammal), the Chinese giant salamander (a newt that has reached human proportions) and the West Indian solenodons (the only mammals capable of injecting venom into their prey through their teeth). EDGE species are immediate priorities for conservation attention because if they disappear then millions of years of unique evolutionary history will be lost forever and there will be nothing like them left on earth.
Our research has identified a major gap in global conservation efforts: 64% of the world's top 100 EDGE mammals and 85% of the top 100 EDGE amphibians are currently receiving little or no conservation attention. These alarming figures are likely to be even higher in less well-known taxa. EDGE's mission is to secure the future of these forgotten species through supporting targeted on-the-ground action for priority EDGE species (EDGE Projects), building conservation capacity in regions in which priority EDGE species occur (through our Fellowship programme) and encouraging others to support and engage in EDGE species conservation.
For more information visit: www.edgeofexistence.org
They are the largest living species of amphibian in both length and mass (up to 1.8 meters long & over 11 kg)
The Chinese Giant Salamander is a member of the evolutionary family Cryptobranchidae, one of the oldest unbroken lineages, diverging 170 million years ago during the Jurassic Period
Though they have lungs, they more efficiently breathe through their skin
Photos Courtesy of: International Cooperation Network for Giant Salamander Conservation(4), Nick Lindsay(1), from left to right
Total body length: up to 1.8 meters
Those that are over 115 cm weigh over 11 kg
Central, south-western, and southern China in the mountain stream tributaries of the Pearl, Yellow, and Yangtze Rivers
Aquatic insects, frogs, crabs, shrimp, and fish
Swimming unsuspected through crevices of rock with the rush of cold stream water sliding above their smooth skin
Sneaky like Gollum from The Lord of the Rings, uniquely side-gill breathing when immature like Harry Potter on gillyweed, and majestic in its water-wiggling as Eragon through the air.
It's meat is deemed a delicacy in China, and it was over-exploited to the point that we do not know the size of the surviving population