The salamander is a species of amphibian, a close relative of frogs and toads, lives mainly in the northern hemisphere, in humid areas near lakes and ponds, depending on the species, some salamanders spend their lives in the water, others on land, while most species live in both. here are 500 known species of salamanders. Most of them are threatened with extinction due to habitat loss and pollution.
Salamanders are the second largest group of amphibians. Because of similar characteristics, salamanders may be confused for lizards; however, lizards are reptiles.
Salamanders vary in size. Minute salamander is the smallest salamander, reaching only 1.1 inches in length. Chinese giant salamander is the largest salamander, reaching over 6 feet in length and weighing of up to 140 pounds.
Salamander are ectothermic (cold-blooded). They cannot regulate their internal body temperature on their own; they rely on external heat to help regulate their internal body temperature.
Salamanders look like lizards because of their long and slim body, but unlike lizards they have smooth and glossy skin.
Salamanders produce a mucus that covers their skin.
Just like all amphibians, salamanders have four limbs, with four toes on their front legs, and five toes on their hind limbs. They do not have claws.
Salamanders have very sensitive and absorbent skin.
Salamander’s skin is highly sensitive to environmental pollution because toxins easily pass the skin and reach inner organs. By tracking the number of salamanders in the wild, scientists can estimate whether environment is healthy or not. If there is a large population of salamanders that means that environment is clean, and vice versa.
Some salamanders can breathe through their skin.
Some salamanders are brightly colored, some others are not. It all depends on the amount of the pigments in the skin.
Salamanders are cannibals. They will eat other salamanders that are smaller than themselves when given the opportunity.
Light colored species spend most of their time hidden underground, or in the dark caves. Body coloration, especially bright colors, indicates that animal can be poisonous. Their skin is covered with mucus which contains bitter substances which make them inedible (poisonous) for predators.
Salamanders are capable of regenerating lost limbs.
Another important technique used against the predators is known as “autotomy” or an ability to reject a limb or a tail when animal needs to escape from the predator.
Salamanders are very sensitive to environmental change and pollution, and are what scientists refer to as an “Indicator Species,” or a species that is very intolerant of pollution and environmental change.
Salamanders will develop missing limb or tail in the next couple of weeks due to incredible power of regeneration.
Salamanders live all over the world, but the United States has the largest number of different salamander families, according to the University of Michigan’s Animal Diversity Web (ADW). All recognized families, except for Hynobiidae (Asiatic salamanders) are found in the United States.
Spotted salamanders are characterized by uneven rows of yellow spots, which can be used for the identification of the individual animals.
Salamanders are typically more active during cool times of the day and are nocturnal.
Salamanders breathe using the lungs, gills or their skin, depending on their life style (water or land). Aquatic forms have gills located behind their head, as a bushy mass. Animals which breathe by skin have a dense capillary network in the skin, which is used for the gas exchange.
Many salamanders lay eggs, but not all. The alpine salamander and fire salamander give birth to live offspring, for example.
Salamanders eat worms and insects. Some species have tongue which can be ten times longer than their body.
Some salamanders don’t become sexually mature for up to 3 years and some live up to 55 years.
Male salamanders perform special type of dancing in the water, a ritual which precedes mating. By moving his head and tail, he sends chemical signals (pheromones) to alert the female that he is ready for the mating. If the dance attracts the female, she will join him in dance.
Spiny salamanders guard their eggs by curling their bodies around them.
Depending on the species, females lays one, two or couple of hundreds eggs during a single mating season.
Some larger types of salamanders eat fish, small crustaceans and insects. Some salamanders eat frogs, mice and even other salamanders.
Most salamanders are born from the eggs without a hard shell that are laid in the water.
The axolotl, an aquatic salamander, can grow back limbs lost in fights with predators and damaged organs due to a special immune system.
Salamanders can live very long period of time. Chinese giant salamander can live up to 55 years.