Mythology Monday: HELLbenders

The hellbender is the largest salamander in America and one of the largest in the world. It certainly has inspired a good deal of myths over the years. Because of its appearance and unusual, “writhing-like” motions, this critter tends to get labeled as a sinister being. Its name, in fact, was given to it due to the way it moves… as though it is being tortured by infernal flames… as though it were a creature of hell.

Look at them moves.

Look at them moves.

Fishermen have found a rival in the hellbender, as folklore has long been shared that these animals spread their slime over their territory and over fishing lines to keep fish away. It is also said hellbenders eat game fish and a stream where a hellbender is found will be devoid of fish. There is a myth that hellbenders are extremely poisonous, and even touching their thick mucous can cause extreme illness. Some people believe their slime puts toxins in the water which kills the fish. Due to all this bad press, fishermen that snare a hellbender have historically killed them mercilessly.

It lurks...

It lurks…

First of all- hellbenders are federally endangered, if you hook one and you kill it, you are committing a crime.

Second of all- MYTHS!!! Hellbenders are harmless (unless you stick your hand in their mouths, and although they can give you quite a bite, they are more likely to squirm and hit you with their big rudder tail than chew on you). Finding a hellbender in your fishing stream means you are in healthy waters and are VERY likely to have a good fishing day. They do NOT eat game fish, or really much fish at all. Their diet mostly consists of crustaceans.

Nom nom. Tasty crayfish.

Nom nom. Tasty crayfish.

They do produce a thick slime (hence one of their nicknames, snot otter) but it is not toxic… at least, not to the environment. I don’t recommend eating it. The handsome hellbender is a good omen and fishermen should be so lucky to come across one!



Salamander Wines!

The art of wine making… I appreciate a good wine, but especially if it is named for a salamander! And what is better than curling up with a good book (about salamanders…) with a glass of wine? Here is a list of salamander themed wines:

Probably the most well known salamander themes wines are from Red Newt Cellars winery (located in New York state). They make a rather well known Riesling. If you actually go to the winery, they have a little bistro on site, check out the menu here.

Tscheppe wines from Austria make a very interesting variety of wines, one of which is buried in the ground over winter in order to ferment. I really like the bottle designs of theses ones.

Salamandre Wines from California offer a wide variety of wines, despite the small scale, all with the adorable salamander logo.

Crane Creek wines in North Georgia make a Hellbender wine! There are a lot of hellbender beers out there (and I mean A LOT) but it is nice to see a a classy hellbender wine!

wine hellbender


QUIZ: Which Cryptobranchid matches your personality?

There are three types of Cryptobranchid salamanders- Chinese giant salamanders, Japanese giant salamanders, and North American hellbenders. While these three look very similar and, in general, have similar behavior patterns, they have very different attitudes. Which one is most like you? Find out by taking the Which Cryptobranchid matches your personality quiz HERE!





Newt Concept Art

Many of you have probably seen some of these before, but they really are great. Here are some of my favorites of the released concept art from the dropped Pixar film “Newt.” These images and more can be found at

While it is a crime and a shame that this movie was never released, they put so much work into it that I bet it may come back around at some point. They even consulted herpetologists for the film. We can only hope someday someone at Pixar/Disney will see this awesome artwork and realize they made a mistake, then put the movie into full production! Enjoy.

What a horrible way to hold a newt! His face seems to show he agrees.

Love the colors.


That’s not what newt romance looks like! There should be tail dances! Cute though.




I have no idea what is going on here, but I hope the hellbender is some sort of mystic/wise animal they needed to find.


Both adorable and stunning at the same time.


He has what looks like a rodent pellet feeder. Interesting.

He has what looks like a rodent pellet feeder. Interesting.

As a reproductive physiologist, I particularly appreciate this adorable embryo peeking out of the egg jelly.

As a reproductive physiologist, I particularly appreciate this adorable embryo peeking out of the egg jelly.