Added 5 October 2003. Last updated 20 March 2003: updated details for O. fischeri and Bibliography.

The Family Hynobiidae: Asian Salamanders

Genus Onychodactylus - Clawed Salamanders

Small genus with one species found in Japan and one in China. Neither is usually seen in captivity, at least in the West. The genus is lungless.

External characteristics of the genus are given by Zhao et al as follows: body large, tail slender, cylindrical and longer than body length; labial folds inconspicuous; tongue egg-shaped and broad; four fingers, five toes, with black, cornified claws; gelatinous egg sac short, less than half of adult total length, egg production low, egg size large. Male secondary sex characteristics prominent: hind limbs large, soles densely covered by black cornified tubercles. Lives on land during non-reproductive period.

O. fischeri O. japonica  

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
O. fischeri ? NE China (Jilin), Russian Far East, Korea ? Claws are present in juveniles but lost by adulthood. Coloration: dorsal longitudinal stripe less prominent than in O. japonicus. Shannon noted that numerous juveniles in specimens collected at the Californian Academy of Sciences had a broad, cream-coloured stripe, and that in a few the cream was divided longitudinally by a line of dark brown vertebral pigmentation.
O. japonica ? Japan (Honshu and Shikoku) 16cm Found in mountainous regions above 1,000m. Coloration: overall yellowish-brown with jagged longitudinal stripe: laterally cream-coloured with dark spots. 


Studies on Chinese Salamanders, Er-mi Zhao, Qixiong Hu, Yaoming Zhang and Yuhua Yang, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1988. Key English-language work on all the Caudata found in China.

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.

"The Reptiles and Amphibians of Korea", Frederick A Shannon, Herpetologica Vol. 12/22. The author had the chance to study local herpetofauna while stationed in Korea in 1951-2.

Animal Life Encyclopedia Volume 5: Fishes and Amphibia, Grzimek,1975 provided details of the general appearance of the species.


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