These giant salamanders are about 55 pounds and five feet long. Brown and black skin helps them blend in with the mud, stones, and plants of the streambeds where they live. Their broad, flattened bodies are streamlined for swimming at the bottom of fast-moving water.
Giant salamanders are covered in mucus, which protects their bodies from abrasions and parasites. When irritated or grasped, they produce a milky, sticky secretion that smells like Japanese peppers. The giant salamander absorbs oxygen through its skin. Loose folds of skin along its sides increase surface area to help absorb even more oxygen.
With their tiny eyes, giant salamanders have poor vision. Instead, they rely on their other senses—such as sensory organs along their bodies and on their heads—to detect other animals and find their way. They eat almost anything they can, from insects to fish to mice to small invertebrates like crabs. Giant salamanders have a very slow metabolism, and go weeks without eating, if necessary.