It took Yukihiro six years to get this shot of a male Japanese giant salamander guarding eggs in its den. This mighty amphibian – up to 1.5 metres long – is unique to Japan. It is a national symbol, the stuff of legends and protected as a Special Natural Monument, but its natural behaviour has seldom been photographed. Hunting small prey in streams and rivers by night and hiding among rocks by day, giant salamanders are extremely difficult to locate. Finding one in a spawning burrow is even harder, but that was what Yukihiro set out to do as part of his project to illustrate the giant’s ecology. The males compete, sometimes viciously, for the best spawning sites, usually burrows, holes or pits in the sand. In late August the females will lay their eggs, between 400 and 500 of them, joined together like strings of beads. The males look after the eggs until they hatch in mid‑October, and then guard the larvae until early spring. As soon as spawning began in the Hino River in southwest Japan, Yukihiro went diving for up to 10 hours every day in search of the action. The most difficult part was finding a spawning burrow. He finally captured this portrait of the father in its hiding place, soon after the female had left it with the clutch of eggs.
Canon EOS 60D + 8–15mm f4 lens; 1/125 sec at f10; ISO 800; Inon S-2000 strobe; Inon underwater blimp.
Niiya, Nichinan, Hino District, Tottori, Japan
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Yukihiro Fukuda, Japan
Yukihiro is a professional wildlife photographer based in Japan, who has been photographing nature around the world for almost 25 years. He has published more than 20 photography books in Japan and is a regular contributor to national and international books, magazines and calendars. He runs his own photo library and leads photographic tours.