I recently saw this video of a giant salamander posted by Ed Beaulieu, who calls himself "The Pond Professor." The salamander is HUGE—an absolute beast!—and, depending on your perspective, it's either incredibly cool or the stuff of nightmares (or both?!). In the comments on the video, someone asked, "is this a hellbender?" so, of course, I had to investigate. While Ed Beaulieu didn't answer the question, after reading about hellbenders, I do believe that this is one. I learned that they are the biggest salamander in North America—they can grow up to 2 ½ feet and weigh up to 5 pounds. They can also live for several decades. They are usually found in the Appalachian Mountains and like to hide, so they are often difficult to find. They have some awesome nicknames, too: mud devils, lasagna lizards, snot otters, Allegheny alligators, and more. To learn more, here's a great video from Animal Fact Files with more hellbender salamander facts:
There is currently one described species of hellbender that is divided into two subspecies: the eastern hellbender and the Ozark hellbender. Though they're called mud devils, hellbenders prefer rocky bottom habitats. Hellbenders get the name snot otter because they produce a mucus on their skin which makes them slippery to hold and can be irritating to predators.
Scientific Name: Cryptobranchus alleganiensis Range: Appalachian Mountains of North America Size: over two feet in length (61cm); weigh over two pounds (907g) Diet: crayfish (crawfish/crawdads), insects and other invertebrates, fish, other amphibians, etc. Lifespan: 30+ years (though closer to 15 on average)
Also, check out this webpage from the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, DC, all about caring for hellbenders, which features more videos of the giant amphibians.