Virginia Tech Study Reveals Reason Hellbenders are Disappearing

June 28, 2023

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Bill Hopkins and his research team have made VT News headlines with their study on hellbender salamanders, shedding light on a critical issue affecting these fascinating creatures.

Hellbenders, the giant, slimy salamanders that once ruled freshwater streams, have been dwindling in numbers for years, leaving scientists puzzled about the cause of their decline. Professor William Hopkins, leading the study at Virginia Tech, suspected that environmental changes driven by human activities might be the key. The study focuses on a behavior known as filial cannibalism, where male hellbenders consume the eggs laid by females. This behavior was found to be more prevalent in deforested areas.

Learn more about how Hopkin’s team team used concrete nesting boxes placed in streams to study hellbenders’ reproductive biology. This method allowed them to collect eggs for captive rearing and gain unprecedented long-term access to these elusive creatures.