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The largest cave salamander found in North America


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Salamanders are a type of amphibian that resemble lizards and breathe with the help of the lacrimal glands located in the mouth, throat, and skin. Since the skin of the salamander must be moist and smooth for breathing, salamanders usually live in moist, damp and wet places.

An amphibian about 23.5 cm in size will force a review of the limits of growth of this species

In an article published in a journal Subterranean biology, it is said that the found individual is a record holder of the species Gyrinophilus gulolineatus, a genus of spring salamanders (Gyrinophilus) and the entire family of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) ever observed in the United States.

The lungless salamanders belong to the order of tailed amphibians, and, as the name suggests, their main feature is the absence of lungs, these animals breathe through the skin. This family lives mainly in the Americas. Among the lungless salamanders, there are species living in caves and underground. They usually differ in small size, it is believed, due to the nature of the environment.

The individual found by American scientists is a rare species under the protection of the US Environmental Protection Agency. The article notes that, most likely, its size reached even 25 centimeters, since it found a salamander with a tail partially fell off. Amphibian body length 14.5 cm, weight 35 grams. An animal was found in Berry Cave in Roan County (Tennessee). After measuring and shooting, the salamander was marked with a special injection and released into the natural environment.

The authors of the article note that so far little is known about the cave salamanders: they live in conditions where they are not easy to study. However, among zoologists studying amphibians, there is an idea about the relationship between the sizes of individuals and living conditions. The find raises doubts as to whether life in the caves and underground directly leads to the small size of the body of these salamanders in comparison with other species.


Fiery salamander lives in the forests and rolling hills of most of Western, Southern and Central Europe, as well as in the northern part of the Middle East.

The western border of the range covers the territory of Portugal, the east and north of Spain, as well as France.

The northern border of the range extends to the north of Germany, and the southern part of Poland. The eastern border reaches the territory of the Ukrainian Carpathians, Romania, Bulgaria and Iran.

There is evidence of a small population in eastern Turkey.

Adult fire salamanders reach 23 cm in length, according to some sources up to 30 cm, the average body length is 16-19 cm, including the tail. The tail length is less than half of the total body length. The tail is round in cross section, very movable (can move the tip). The stocky body is predominantly colored intensely black with irregular yellow or orange spots. The shape and location of the spots are varied and variable. Often the spots merge and form strips. Often the spots on the head and paws are symmetrical, the rest are placed differently, but evenly over the body. The bright, contrasting color of the salamander (also called aposematic, that is, warning) serves to warn enemies that their prey is poisonous. The abdomen is usually black or brown, colored monotonously, lighter spots are possible. The limbs are short and strong, without swimming membranes. On the front legs four fingers and five on the back.

The head of the salamander is massive and round. Large bulging eyes are completely black, the eyelids are well developed. One can distinguish a female from a male by larger body sizes, shorter limbs and less convex cesspool. Females are wider.

The parotid glands are located on the head - mumpshaving an alveolar structure. The glands produce poison, which in its appearance is a viscous milky liquid with a specific odor of almonds or garlic. Its main components are steroidal alkaloids samandarin, samandaron, cycloneosamandaron and others. In total, the poison of the salamander contains 9 structurally similar alkaloids. For mammals, the poison is toxic (average lethal dose is 20-30 mg / kg for mice). The poison acts as a neurotoxin, causing paralysis, arrhythmia, and seizures. It also has antibacterial and antifungal effects. For salamanders, poison serves as protection against predators and infections. For humans, salamander venom is not dangerous, but the ingestion of poison on the mucous membranes causes a burning sensation. In severe stress, the salamander can spray poison over a short distance.

The process of propagation of fire salamanders is not fully understood. In addition, significant differences in the breeding cycles of salamander of this species depending on the habitat and its height above sea level are known.

The breeding season usually begins in early spring. At this time, the male in the area of ​​the cloaca becomes more pronounced convex gland, producing a spermatophore.

Two subspecies of fire salamanders - S. s. fastuosa and S. s. bernardezi - viviparous animals, the female does not lay eggs, but produces larvae or, sometimes, even individuals that have completely undergone metamorphosis. The remaining subspecies practice egg production. Rare cases are known (when kept in captivity) when the female laid her eggs, but even in such cases, the larvae hatch very quickly.

Representatives of the species reach puberty at the age of 3 years. Life expectancy in the natural environment is up to 14 years; some specimens survived up to 50 years in captivity.

The fiery salamander prefers deciduous or mixed forests, foothill and mountainous areas, and river banks. In the highlands it is found at an altitude of 2 km above sea level. Fire salamanders have a fairly strong attachment to a certain permanent habitat.

Leads mainly night and twilight lifestyle. It does not tolerate high temperatures. Avoids the sun's rays, hides during the day under fallen trees, stones, in rotten stumps, abandoned burrows, in humid secluded places. Although her limbs are not adapted to burrowing actions, sometimes the salamander independently digs holes in soft soil. On rainy days at high humidity (about 90% or more) it can show normal activity, for which residents of the Ukrainian Carpathians sometimes call it the “rain lizard”.

The fiery salamander is an inactive animal, moves slowly on the ground, its body slightly bends, and its tail drags freely. It swims poorly (it can even drown in deep water), therefore it approaches water bodies only during the breeding season. It feeds on various invertebrates: caterpillars of butterflies, dipterous larvae, spiders, slugs, earthworms, and can also eat small newts and young frogs. The salamander catches its prey by rushing forward with his whole body, and then trying to swallow it whole.

From October-November it usually leaves for the winter until March. Winter is spent hiding under the roots of trees, under a thick layer of fallen leaves, often in large groups from twenty to several hundred specimens.

The natural enemies in nature for salamanders are snakes (common and water already), predatory fish, birds and wild boars.

  • Salamandra salamandra salamandra Linneaus, 1758 - nominative subspecies, lives on the territory of the Balkan Peninsula, northern Italy, eastern Germany, southeast France and the Carpathians.
  • Salamandra salamandra alfredschmidti
  • Salamandra salamandra almanzoris Müller and Hellmich, 1935
  • Salamandra salamandra bejarae Mertens and Müller, 1940
  • Salamandra salamandra bernardezi Gasser, 1978 - found in the Spanish province of Asturias and northern Spain.
  • Salamandra salamandra beschkovi Obst, 1981
  • Salamandra salamandra crespoi Malkmus, 1983
  • Salamandra salamandra fastuosa (bonalli) Eiselt, 1958
  • Salamandra salamandra galliaca Nikolskii, 1918
  • Salamandra salamandra gigliolii Eiselt and Lanza, 1956
  • Salamandra salamandra hispanica Mertens and Muller, 1940
  • Salamandra salamandra infraimmaculata
  • Salamandra salamandra longirostris Joger and Steinfartz, 1994
  • Salamandra salamandra morenica Joger and Steinfartz, 1994
  • Salamandra salamandra semenovi
  • Salamandra salamandra terrestris Eiselt, 1958 - distributed in France and western Germany. The subspecies is distinguished by smaller average sizes.

The fire salamander is listed in the Red Book of Ukraine and is assigned to category II (vulnerable species). In Europe, the species is protected by the Berne Convention for the Protection of European Species of Wild Fauna and their Habitats, concluded in 1979 (indicated in Appendix III - “Animal species to be protected”).