The Chinese giant salamander does not fit the traditional definition of “cute.” Growing to nearly six feet long and weighing roughly 140 pounds, the flabby creatures are the largest amphibians in the world. Their beady, lidless eyes peer out from broad, flat heads with blunt snouts, and their mud-colored bodies have short limbs and long tails. The species’ slimy skin is not pleasant to pet, either.
With these characteristics, the amphibians are certainly not as charismatic as pandas and other fluffy mammals, but they’re just as crucial to a healthy ecosystem. In two studies published last week, scientists found that instead of one species—as previously thought—there are actually roughly half a dozen species of Chinese giant salamander.