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hellbender

OLogy Series
animal
card
123

hellbender

OLogy Series
animal

The hellbender is one of the largest salamanders in North America. It's also one of the most unmistakable, with its flattened head, body, and tail, and loose, wrinkled flaps of skin along its sides. Hellbenders are found in clear, fast-flowing rivers and streams. By day, they hide under rocks and debris. At night, they come out to look for food.

What have fishermen nicknamed the hellbender?

flat face

devil dog

slimy salamander

Are you right?

Correct!

The hellbender is often called "devil dog" or "Allegheny alligator" by fishermen who believe it will slime their fishing lines, chase off big fish, or give a poisonous bite. In fact, hellbenders are harmless and try to avoid big fish.

A hellbender gets most of its oxygen through its:

skin

mouth

gill slits

Are you right?

Correct!

Hellbenders rarely rise to the surface and don't have gills like fish, so they take in oxygen through the folds of their wrinkled skin. They often rock back and forth in water to get more oxygen into their skin.

The hellbender is in a group of animals called reptiles.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fiction

A hellbender is an amphibian, like frogs, newts, and toads. All amphibians are cold-blooded, which means their body temperature changes with its surroundings.

During breeding season, the male hellbender builds the nest and protects the eggs until they hatch.

Fact
or
Fiction
?

Fact

Once the male builds a nest, which is usually under rocks, he persuades a female to enter and lay her eggs. The male protects the eggs until they hatch, after about 10 to 12 weeks.

hellbender
Scientific name: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis
Habitat: clean rivers and streams from southwest New York to northern Alabama and Georgia
Size: 12 to 27 inches long
Diet: crayfish, insects, worms, and small fish
Characteristics: flattened body and wrinkled
skin; short powerful legs; gray or brown
Significance: the largest salamanders of the
western hemisphere

Image credits: courtesy of Brad Moon, California Academy of Sciences.