Animal Encounters

Fun Animal Encounters

From a hairy tarantula to a talking African gray parrot, you never know what you’ll bump into in Ranger Rick's Backyard Safari at the Tennessee Aquarium!

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Animal Keeper

Animal Keeper Updates

Get a peek behind the scenes of the Aquarium’s Husbandry department. Read their weekly animal updates and get an insider’s look at caring for over 10,000 animals and plants.

ANIMAL UPDATES
AMPHIBIANS

Hellbender Salmander

Cryptobranchus alleganiensis

ON EXHIBIT:  Discovery Hall at River Journey

Hellbender

FUN FACTS
The hellbender is the largest species of salamander in the eastern United States.  It spends most of its time under rocks and stream debris where its flattened body and dull colors make it nearly impossible to see. Here it waits patiently for its next meal to pass by. It breathes by absorbing oxygen directly from the water through its wrinkled skin. The wrinkles give the hellbender more surface area to absorb greater amounts of oxygen. 

CONSERVATION
IUCN status is near threatened.  Populations are declining.  All amphibians are at risk due to factors such as habitat destruction, pollution and diseases such as ranavirus and chytrid fungus.



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About This Animal

SIZE: 8 in (20.3 cm)

RANGE: Mountains and foothills of eastern United States

HABITAT: Slow-moving waterways with muddy bottoms

DIET: Aquatic insects, crustaceans, worms and fish