Researchers try to save huge US salamander

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Huge salamanders known as hellbenders or "snot otters" are disappearing from rivers across North America, and scientists are struggling to figure out why.

Hellbenders can grow more than 2 feet long and are slimy with beady eyes and an alien appearance that's led to a host of unflattering nicknames. The nocturnal creatures have inhabited rivers and streams in 16 Eastern states for at least 10 million years.

Scientists believe sediment runoff from development could be contributing to the salamanders' decline because it worsens water quality. A fungus blamed for amphibian declines worldwide is another possibility.

Researchers are raising hellbenders in captivity to release into the wild. They are also implanting microchips under skin of specimens found in rivers in hopes of learning more about their life cycle.

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