What is a Hellbender?

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What is a Hellbender?

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General Description:

     The hellbender is the largest salamander found in North America.  It can reach lengths up to 74 cm (2.5 ft) and obtain a mass of over 2 kg (~ 4.5 lbs).  This permanently aquatic salamander has an overall robust, yet flatten appearance.  The head is more round than elongated, with small lidless eyes, and a very large mouth that wraps around almost half of the snout.  The head and back of the hellbender are usually an orangish to brown to gray color with black mottling.  They have 4 stubby legs and a paddle-like tail.    

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     Currently scientists agree that there is only one species of hellbender and have named it Cryptobranchus alleganiensis.  There are however, two subspecies or forms of hellbenders, the Eastern Hellbender (C. a. alleganiensis) and the Ozark Hellbender (C. a. bishopi).  Upon first glance the two forms appear very similar.  In fact the differences between the two groups involve the amount of mottling or spotting under the chin, the size of the spiracles or (gill openings), and other such characters.  While these differences may seem minor, they are consistent within a given geographic area.  The Ozark hellbender is only found in rivers in the White River watershed.  All the other hellbenders are considered to be the Eastern Hellbender.

Eastern Hellbender Pic Ozark Hellbender Pic


Pic of Range





Contact bwheeler@ozarkhellbender.com with questions/comments/suggestions regarding this website.  Last updated 6 July 2007.