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More 'Baby Giants' Arrive At The Saint Louis Zoo

Jill Utrup/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

The Saint Louis Zoo once again is teeming with baby giant salamanders.

For the second year in a row, the zoo has successfully bred endangered Ozark hellbenders in captivity.

This time, a total of eight females laid 2,809 fertile eggs. Two-hundred and fourteen salamander larvae have hatched so far, with many more expected.

Credit Mark Wanner/Saint Louis Zoo
This two-week-old Ozark hellbender larva hatched last November at the Saint Louis Zoo. It was among the first hellbenders born in captivity.

Even though the salamanders are smaller than a quarter when they first hatch, as adults they can reach lengths of up to two feet.

The zoo maintains adult hellbenders from three different Ozark river systems: the Current River, the Eleven Point River, and the North Fork of the White River. For the first time, hellbenders from all three populations successfully reproduced.

The rivers of southern Missouri and northern Arkansas once supported as many as 8,000 Ozark hellbenders. Today there are fewer than 600 left in the wild. In October 2011, the Midwestern salamander was added to the federal endangered species list.

Once they are 3 to 8 years old, the Saint Louis Zoo’s captive-bred hellbenders will be released into their native Ozark rivers, to help with the long-term recovery of the species.

Follow Véronique LaCapra on Twitter: @KWMUScience

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