With a name like hellbender, it's no wonder that the largest salamanders in the Western hemisphere have survived for millions of years - evolving just enough to live when dinosaurs couldn't, according to The Nature Conservancy. Despite its once healthy hold in places like Missouri, Virginia and Arkansas, the hellbender population is rapidly declining, and many blame environmental pollution for the demise.
The salamanders, who live near fresh streams and rivers in these parts, have been dying off at faster rates in recent years and scientists are worried it's an indication of just how bad pollution levels have gotten.
"Hellbenders tell us that our streams are healthy," Kimberly Terrell, a wildlife biologist with the Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington told the Richmond Times-Dispatch. "If the hellbenders start disappearing, there is probably something wrong with our streams. And most of us live downstream from hellbenders."
Terrell added that many of the problems hellbenders face people polluting the streams, while issues with air quality also threaten their existence.
Air and environmental pollution levels continue to be high around the nation, with rates expected to increase rapidly during the hotter months. Those living in high traffic areas might benefit from investing in a professional-grade air purifier like the IQAir GC MultiGas to breathe easy at home.