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Jennifer Taunton: Salamanders

Salamander
Cave salamander in Blanchard Springs Caverns.

Salamanders come in many shapes and sizes. Several varieties can be found in Arkansas.

The word salamander comes from the Greek for fire animal. According to popular myth in the Middle Ages, salamanders were born of fire. When people would set fire to damp logs, the salamander would scurry out of the log. The people of the Middle Ages also thought the salamander had magical powers.

Arkansas is home to many types of salamanders. The Ringed Salamander, Ouachita Dusky, and the Cave Salamander to name a few. Although there are one hundred and twenty seven species of salamanders found in the United States and Canada, they can be divided into two main groups; aquatic and terrestrial.

Aquatic Salamanders spend most or all of their lives in water. These salamanders have both gills and lungs. They use both to breathe, they also breathe through their skin. Salamanders allow oxygen to pass through their skin into the capillaries that are close to the skin. Aquatic salamanders also use their lungs to maintain water depth.

Aquatic salamanders can be found in shallow streams. During the day they hide under rocks, but during the night can be seen moving across the bottom of the stream.

Terrestrial salamanders spend most or all of their lives on land. Most of these salamanders breathe through their moist skin, the same way aquatic salamanders do. If the salamanders skin dries out it does not get enough oxygen and dies.

Terrestrial Salamanders live in moist areas, under rotting logs, rocks, and in caves. Those whose lives start in water can often be found near streams and other bodies of water.

Both aquatic and terrestrial salamanders are carnivores. Terrestrial salamanders eat earthworms, insects, snails and small mice. Aquatic salamanders eat tadpoles, small fish and other salamanders.

Salamanders come in many lengths. One of the largest ever found was five feet long. Salamanders have short legs that barely keep its belly off the ground. The salamander moves gracefully through the water. On land, however, movement is awkward.

Project Author: Jennifer Taunton


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