Navigation Links
World's first captive breeding of Ozark hellbenders at Saint Louis Zoo

The Saint Louis Zoo's Ron Goellner Center for Hellbender Conservation and the Missouri Department of Conservation announced on Nov. 30, 2011, that Ozark hellbenders have been bred in captivitya first for either of the two subspecies of hellbender. This decade-long collaboration has yielded 63 baby hellbenders.

The first hellbender hatched on Nov. 15, and currently there are approximately 120 additional eggs that should hatch within the next week. The eggs are maintained in climate- and water quality-controlled trays behind the scenes in the Zoo's Herpetarium. For 45 to 60 days after emerging, the tiny larvae will retain their yolk sack for nutrients and move very little as they continue their development. As the larvae continue to grow, they will develop legs and eventually lose their external gills by the time they reach 1.5 to 2 years of age. At sexual maturity, at 5 to 8 years of age, adult lengths can approach two feet. Both parents are wild bred: the male has been at the Zoo for the past two years and the female arrived this past September.

Rivers in south-central Missouri and adjacent Arkansas once supported up to 8,000 Ozark hellbenders. Today, fewer than 600 exist in the worldso few that the amphibian was added in October 2011 to the federal endangered species list.

Due to these drastic declines, captive propagation became a priority in the long-term recovery of the species. Once the captive-bred larvae are 3 to 8 years old, they can then be released into their natural habitatthe Ozark aquatic ecosystem.

Also known by the colloquial names of "snot otter" and "old lasagna sides," the adult hellbender is one of the largest species of salamanders in North America, with its closest relatives being the giant salamanders of China and Japan, which can reach five feet in length.

With skin that is brown with black splotches, the Ozark hellbender has a slippery, flattened body that moves easily through water and can squeeze under rocks on the bottom of streams.

Like a Canary in a Coal Mine

Requiring cool, clean running water, the Ozark hellbender is also an important barometer of the overall health of that ecosysteman aquatic "canary in a coal mine."

"Capillaries near the surface of the hellbender's skin absorb oxygen directly from the water as well as hormones, heavy metals and pesticides," said Jeff Ettling, Saint Louis Zoo curator of herpetology and aquatics. "If there is something in the water that is causing the hellbender population to decline, it can also be affecting the citizens who call the area home."

"We have a 15- to 20-year window to reverse this decline," added Missouri Department of Conservation Herpetologist Jeff Briggler, who cites a number of reasons for that decline from loss of habitat to pollution to disease to illegal capture and overseas sale of the hellbender for pets. "We don't want the animal disappearing on our watch."

Reversing A Decline

In 2001, the Ozark Hellbender Working Group of scientists from government agencies, public universities and zoos in Missouri and Arkansas launched a number of projects to staunch that decline. These included egg searches, disease sampling and behavioral studies.

In 2004, funding from private donors, the Missouri Department of Conservation, the United States Fish & Wildlife Services and the Zoo covered the cost of building sophisticated facilities including climate-controlled streams to breed the hellbender.

The hellbender propagation facilities include two outdoor streams that are 40 feet long and six feet deep. The area is landscaped with natural gravel, large rocks for hiding and artificial nest boxes, where the fertilized eggs were discovered. A nearby building houses state-of-the-art life support equipment used to filter the water and maintain the streams at the proper temperature.

In addition, two large climate-controlled rooms in the basement of the Zoo's Charles H. Hoessle Herpetarium are the headquarters for the program. The facilities recreate hellbender habitat with closely monitored temperatures, pumps to move purified water, sprinklers synced to mimic the exact precipitation and lights that flick on or dim to account for brightness and shade. The largest room includes a 32-foot simulated stream, complete with native gravel and large rocks for hiding. It houses a breeding group of adult Ozark hellbenders from the North Fork of the White River in Missouri; offspring from these hellbenders will eventually be released back into the wild.


Contact: Christy Childs
Saint Louis Zoo

Related biology news :

1. New book reviews ancient and modern worlds of RNA
2. New way to make malaria medicine also first step in finding new antibiotics
3. Complete Genomics launches, becomes worlds first large-scale human genome sequencing company
4. Digital zebrafish embryo provides the first complete developmental blueprint of a vertebrate
5. Synaptics to Report First Quarter Results on October 23
6. Alzheimers disease research attracts first partner
7. Volcanoes may have provided sparks and chemistry for first life
8. Study of polar dinosaur migration questions whether dinosaurs were truly the first great migrators
9. Synaptics Reports Record Results for First Quarter of Fiscal 2009
10. First comprehensive genomic study of common cold reveals new treatment targets
11. Scientists achieve first tracking of salmon from headwaters in Rockies through Pacific to Alaska
Post Your Comments:
(Date:10/29/2015)... YORK , Oct. 29, 2015 ... technology, announced a partnership with 2XU, a global ... to deliver a smart hat with advanced bio-sensing ... and other athletes to monitor key biometrics to ... the strategic partnership, the two companies will bring together ...
(Date:10/27/2015)... SAN JOSE, Calif. , Oct. 27, 2015 /PRNewswire/ ... human interface solutions, today announced that Google has adopted ... family of touch controller solutions to power its newest ... Nexus 6P by Huawei. --> ... ecosystem partners like Google to provide strategic collaboration in ...
(Date:10/26/2015)... 2015  Delta ID Inc., a company focused on ... PC devices, announced its ActiveIRIS® technology powers the iris ... launched by NTT DOCOMO, INC in Japan ... smartphone to include iris recognition technology, after a very ... in May 2015, world,s first smartphone to have this ...
Breaking Biology News(10 mins):
(Date:11/24/2015)... N.C. , Nov. 24, 2015  Clintrax Global, Inc., a ... North Carolina , today announced that the company has set ... represented a 391% quarter on quarter growth posted for Q3 of ... and Mexico , with the establishment ... in December 2015. --> United Kingdom ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... PHILADELPIA, PA (PRWEB) , ... November 24, 2015 , ... ... young entrepreneurs at competitive events in five states to develop and pitch their BIG ... student projects from each state are competing for votes to win the title of ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... SHPG ) announced today that Jeff Poulton , Chief ... Annual Healthcare Conference in New York City , ... p.m. GMT). --> SHPG ) announced today that ... Jaffray 27 th Annual Healthcare Conference in New ... 8:30 a.m. EST (1:30 p.m. GMT). --> Shire plc ...
(Date:11/24/2015)... , Nov. 24, 2015  Tikcro Technologies Ltd. (OTCQB: TIKRF) today announced ... 29, 2015 at 11:00 a.m. Israel time, at ... 98 Yigal Allon Street, 36 th Floor, Tel Aviv, ... Eric Paneth and Izhak Tamir to the Board of ... as external directors; , approval of an amendment to certain terms ...
Breaking Biology Technology: