Added 28 September 2003. Last updated 25 March 2004: added link to Ranodon and Salamandrella pages.

A Brief Look
at the



The Hynobiidae are one of the lesser known families of salamanders, at least outside of their natural home, Asia. Most are found in China, Japan and Siberia, although Salamandrella keyserlinglii just about reaches Western Russia, depending on how you define the geography, and Batrachuperus persicus is found in Iran near the Caspian Sea. Within this range, most of the family are found living in or near to well-oxygenated mountain streams in cool to cold climates.

Hynobid species are considered primitive, forming part of the same suborder as the much larger Cryptobranchidae species. Common to both families are external fertilisation and aquatic larvae. Zhao et al give other external characteristics as follows: body small, length up to 300mm but usually less than 200mm; skin smooth; torso cylindrical; costal grooves conspicuous; eyelids present; distance between nostrils is equal to or greater than the distance between the eyes; all eggs are included in a pair of slightly arc-shaped gelatinous sacs.

The record of hynobid species in captivity is spotty, probably because few in the English-speaking world (North America and the UK) seem interested in them. Partly this is due to their supposed difficulty in maintenance (at least when compared to salamandrid species), but also, one suspects, to a lack of familiarity. The Germans and Dutch, on the other hand, have kept and bred at least some of the Hynobius species. I suspect private Japanese keepers have also had success with them.

Batrachuperus, Stream Salamanders Hynobius Liua
Onychodactylus, Clawed Salamanders Pachyhynobius Protohynobius
Pseudohynobius Ranodon Salamandrella, Siberian Newt

Genus Common Name No. of species Distribution Notes
Batrachuperus Stream Salamanders 9 China, Afghanistan and Iran  
Hynobius   26 China, Japan and other parts of Asia  
Liua   1 China  
Onychodactylus Clawed Salamanders 2 China and Japan  
Pachyhynobius   1 China  
Protohynobius   1 ?  
Pseudohynobius   1 ?  
Ranodon   2 China,  
Salamandrella Siberian Newt 1 China, Kazakhstan  

Bibliography - Hynobiidae

There seems to be no one single work (at least outside academic circles) dealing with the family Hynobiidae in its entirety. However, there is information both in print and on the Internet on the individual species and genera, both natural history and captive husbandry, but far less than for many of the other Caudata families.

Studies on Chinese Salamanders, Er-mi Zhao, Qi-xiong Hu, Yao-min Jiang and Yu-hua Yang, SSAR, Ohio, 1988 (Contributions to Herpetology series). As far as I am aware this is the most comprehensive work on the hynobiids, for although it concentrates only on Chinese species it does give the morphology and other characteristics of the family.

Keeping and Breeding Amphibians, Chris Mattison, Blandford Press. Good introduction to the subject, although the hynobid species are only briefly touched upon.

The Proper Care of Amphibians, John Coborn, TFH, 1992. Although I have been often critical of Coborn's books in the past - some, notably on lizards, have contained erroneous information - this is not a bad one. It is very useful for an oversight of all the amphibian families and contains some information on many species which are rarely seen in captivity. However, do not expect to find any detail on hynobid species.

Die Amphibien Europas, Andreas and Christel Nöllert, Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart, 1992. Includes details of Salamandrella keyserlinglii.

Herpetology of China, Er-mi Zhao and Kraig Adler, SSAR, 1993. Catalogue of practically every reptile and amphibian species found in mainland China, Hongkong, Macao, Tibet and Taiwan. There are few details of the ecology of the animals, but readers are referred to a very comprehensive bibliography, and colour plates are provided for many of the creatures listed.


Index of newt- and salamander-related articles from herpetological magazines.

Tree of Life has a very useful entry on the Family Salamandridae, including the anatomical characteristics.

AmphibiaWeb is a useful source for species lists and has information on some if not most of the species. also has a well-organised and informative set of pages on the Hynobiidae.

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