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From Hanzaki to Hellbender

There's an observation that the farthest distance from where you are now is to where you are now.

I'm a big fan of the television show "River Monsters." The host, Jeremy Wade, approaches his subject as a detective trying to get to the facts via the fiction. In tracking down the Japanese mythological creature called the Kappa, he finds the Hanzaki, or Japanese Giant Salamander. Now, I'm not nearly as brave as Mr. Wade when it comes to seeking answers (noodling giant amphibians from cold mountain streams, mmmm, no), but I'm very happy to slosh around in the vast data streams of the Smithsonian.  

Like Wade, following the names and descriptions associated with the Japanese Giant Salamander (Hynobius nebulosus, Andrias japonicus, Cryptobranchidae, just to name a few) finally led me to the Smithsonian Channel's Nick Baker, and his adventures with the Hellbender, North America's own Giant Salamander Nick Baker's Weird Creatures.  Yes, I knew I was back in the States when reading out the aliases of the Hellbender — "snot otter," "mud-devil," "grampus."  

I should globe-trot like this more often!

Did You Know that The Zug Family Amphibian & Reptile Endowment was established to supplement the Libraries annual subscriptions to serial publications dealing with the biology, evolution, and systematics of amphibians and reptiles held generally in the Libraries' zoology branch?  Contact the Libraries' Development Office for more information, 202.633.1522 or OBrienE@si.edu .

Rachelle Hardy

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