The Eastern Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) is the largest salamander in North America, reaching lengths of up to 2 feet! Completely aquatic, this species is found in rivers and streams across Appalachia and is a key indicator of water quality. Use this page to learn more, or click "Next" to dive deeper into hellbender habitat.



Hellbenders have incredibly small eyes. Why would this be? Since hellbenders spend almost all of their time in the dark, keen eyesight isn't really a necessity. Hellbenders instead hunt by smell and touch, feeding primarily on crayfish. Contrary to popular belief, hellbenders do not pose a threat to fish populations, even game species such as trout.


Hellbenders "breathe" by obtaining oxygen directly from the water. Like most other amphibians, this involves the transfer of oxygen and other gases across the skin. However, hellbenders are unique in that they contain thick folds of skin to aid in this process. Why? Folded skin means more surface area to use in respiration underwater.

Photo by Brian Gratwicke via Flickr - Distributed under a CC BY 2.0 license.