A night in the life of Giant Salamanders

Hi everyone!

So in my last blog post I promised to tell you something about my evening with giant salamanders the next time, so what happened?

A couple of weeks ago I messaged one of the many circles and clubs of Kyoto University. This one was called wild creature studies and it immediately sounded appealing to me :). After some emailing back and forth, the girl invited me to help out with the giant salamander research some time. I immediately said yes because, well, do I have to explain why?? 😀 Unfortunately the first day she would be going was sometime in November, so she talked to the professor and he invited me to come the next Saturday (which was 1.5 weeks ago now). Since I didn’t really have any concrete plans for the weekend, I thought I might as well do it. So on that Saturday I went to the professor’s offices (which was quite hard to find since I had to take some back entrance..).

Doctor Kanto Nishikawa is the head of this research group and took me into his office to get aquainted. He told me about all the work he does and I was able to ask him so many questions about what he does and where he goes. He’s a specialist in phylogeny and amphibians and makes frequent trips to (for example) Borneo to find new species. It was so awesome to hear the stories and I definitely felt some drive again to continue my biology studies. Also we talked about the Netherlands. Not too long ago he visited Naturalis in Leiden to read all the reports that where made in Indonesia on species that were found there and to look at all the specimen gathered when we were occupying the country. It was so interesting!

After we had a talk about all of this and a little bit about the research, I met his PhD student who does research on Japanese frogs (I think it was the brown frog). The whole room was filled with amazing specimen and it was really interesting to meet him as well. But then we had to get to the preparations. I needed a waterproof suit, which means boots with some kind of overal attached to it. After gathering all the stuff we were ready to go and got in the car, where another biology masters student was joining us.

After a short stop at 7 eleven for dinner and a 1.5 hour drive through the woods in the dark, we arrived at a place close to a river, where we met up with the vice president of one of the aquariums (not sure which one anymore) in the area. He was joining us too. Ready for the adventure, we all put on out clothes and walked down to the river. It was so weird to go in a river up to my hips at night and not becoming wet, but it was also so amazing!! At first it was a little bit awkward for me because I had no idea what to do. We just started walking, or rather climbing, while looking out for giant salamanders in the mean time. After a while I heard some excitement and saw the movement of a flashlight and Yes! We found one.

  • The research is for a reason obviously, in the area there are Japanese salamanders, but Chinese salamanders where also introduced. This caused a problem since the mixed species is a lot stronger in some areas than the Japanese variant, which is why the Japanese one might die out. You can read more about it here: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/news/2014/12/04/national/interbreeding-threatens-survival-of-japans-living-fossil-salamander/#.Vji_oPnhDIU

It was so cool to see this animal from upclose for the first time! I had been looking forward to it for a while and well, being close to these amazing, pretty and impressive big creatures was one of the best experiences I could have in Japan. We continued our walk after inspecting the animal and found 4 more giant salamanders and everytime I was just as impressed as the first time. Ofcourse we didn’t only find Salamanders. We found a beautiful Japanese tree frog, a common Japanese toad (that was super big) and a japanese frog that used to be part of the treefrogs, but changed to living next to the water. Also, we found a giant centipede or something with really long paws. It was a scary animal but really really cool! Ow, and some fresh water crabs.

Well, after 2.5 hours of walking we finished the research and returned to the car. We drove to the other group at the other river that was also doing research and they briefly had a talk in Japanese which I couldn’t understand but I guess it was about how the evening went. Then we went back to uni, cleaned all the tools and that was it! It was an amazing experience and I had never done this before. I’m so grateful I got to see these wonderfull animals and fortunately the professor said I could come anytime, so I might, maybe 😉 go again :).

Unfortunately I left my camera in my bag at university so I couldn’t take any pictures, but if you’re interested in the animals I saw just go to google and type in the names. The pictures there are probably better anyways :).

Well, since I wrote a super long story, without any pictures, I guess I should stop now because it’s probably a bit boring. Next time I promise to have pictures again and I’ll probably tell you about my last weekend in Tokyo (YEAAAHH I FINALLY WENT BACK TO TOKYO!!!!).

Thank you so much for reading this long blogpost 🙂

Sayonaraaaaaaa ❤



5 thoughts on “A night in the life of Giant Salamanders

  1. Sounds amazing and like you should go again. 🙂 What did you find in the research? Was there a conclusion? Did you find all three giant salamander species??

    Why your last weekend in Tokyo?

    What are you eating in the picture?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Haha the research is a process of years, you can’t find answers in one night. It’s also more observational because they need to find a solution for the problem. We found one possibly mixed salamander and 4 japanese ones. I mean my previous weekend in Tokyo, not the last one ofcourse hihi. And I’m eating Dango 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. lindaleefrederiks

    Yes I loved reading this too Hannah and just like Vera could feel and see your night walk in the river hunting for water creatures through your writing! Looking forward to the next blog about whatever your doing over there! 😘😘


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