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Salamander Facts

Sonia Nair
Did you know that the word salamander means fire lizard in Greek language? Go through this post for interesting facts about these amphibians.
Salamanders are amphibians that resemble lizards in appearance. Even though they have similar body shapes, both species are entirely different. While lizards have scaly bodies, salamanders have a smooth skin without scales.
Salamanders are mostly found in and around water bodies. These animals are classified under the order Caudata, which consists of ten families that are again grouped in three suborders. There are more than 500 species of salamanders that are found across the globe, especially in temperate regions.
These animals are found in almost all continents, except Australia and Antarctica. Most of the African regions do not have any salamander species. Most of them are found in North America.
So, these amphibians are mostly found in and around water bodies, like ponds, streams, and lakes. While most of the adults are found to be terrestrial, some are aquatic and others are arboreal. There are some salamander species that dwell underground, especially in moist and damp areas, like wetlands.
A typical salamander has a slender body, with a long tail and a short nose. Most of them have four limbs, but there are some species with no limbs or reduced limbs. Their forelimbs have four toes each, and the hind limbs have five. Another interesting fact is that they don't have claws.
While most of the species are small; there are some, like the Chinese giant salamander, that can grow up to two meters in length, and a weight of around 65 kilograms. In fact, the Chinese giant salamander is the largest living amphibian. You may also find small species with a length of around two to three centimeters.
Salamanders have a smooth moist skin that is shed at regular intervals. It has been observed that most of them consume their skin, when shed. The mucus secreted by the skin keeps the animal moist in dry weather; and also acts as a lubricant, while they are in water.
In some species, both genders have bright skin color, with or without designs; in some others, only males sport bright body colors. Red salamanders have bright red body color with round black spots. However, there are some species that have white/pink translucent skin. This is mainly seen in those species that dwell underground or in caves.
Even the process of respiration in these animals differ from one species to another. While some of them have lungs, others have only gill slits. Some others have both lungs as well as gill slits. In some species, internal gills as well as gill slits are seen. Some of the terrestrial salamanders breathe through the skin only.
These animals are capable of autotomy, which can be described as self amputation done by an animal, as a part of its self-defense mechanism. They try to divert the attention of the predator by dropping their tails, that wiggle for sometime.
The diet of a salamander consists of insects, worms, small animals, and snails. Some of the terrestrial salamanders stick out their hyoid bone, along with their tongue, for catching prey. The sticky end of the tongue helps the animal to catch the prey.
Most of these amphibians are nocturnal animals that are averse to bright light. They have the ability to regenerate lost limbs and other body parts.
Breeding is mostly done in water. Eggs are laid in water bodies, and they develop to aquatic larvae with gills. In some terrestrial species, eggs are laid on land, and in that case, larval stage is completed inside the eggs only.
As salamanders are getting increasingly popular as pets, you must have some knowledge about these animals, if you plan to adopt one. In that case, there are many options, like the spotted type or tiger salamander.