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Salamanders

Have you ever walked beside a stream, turned over a leaf or log and noticed a mysterious slimy unknown creature? What is it? Is it a salamander?

Look farther to find out more about different salamanders that can be found in Arkansas.

Salamander

  

Salamander

The word salamander comes from a Greek word meaning, "fire animal." In the Middle Ages people thought that fire created salamanders. When logs were burned, the heat drove out salamanders living in the logs.

Salamanders are amphibians. They have smooth skin and can live in water or on land. Salamanders have two, four, or no legs. They have four toes on each fore foot and five on each hind foot and do not have claws. Salamanders have long tails and bodies. They can repair almost any body injury such as regrowing tails, legs, or feet. Like snakes, salamanders shed their skin as they grow.

Salamanders hide under leaves, logs and rocks to avoid the sun and are most active at night. Salamanders are carnivores. They eat worms, grubs, snails and insects like crickets.

Of the more than 350 species, there are about 135 kinds of salamanders found in the United States. Those species that live in water all or most of their lives are known as aquatic salamanders. Those that live mostly on land are known as terrestrial salamanders.

Aquatic salamanders have both gills and lungs. Other than for breathing, the lungs serve another function such as ballast in a submarine. Holding air in their lungs allows them to float and without air allows them to sink deeper in the water. Some terrestrial salamanders do not have lungs. They breathe through their thin skin and moist tissue on the inside of their mouths. Some terrestrial salamanders do have lungs but still get most of their oxygen through their skin.

Tiger Salamander
Tiger Salamander
photo by: Leah Arnold

Spotted Salamander
Spotted Salamander
photo by:  Karen Hankins
 

Commonly found salamanders in Arkansas are the Tiger and Spotted salamanders. The tiger stripes or bright yellow and orange spots on dark bodies easily identify these.

Salamander
photo by:  Leah Arnold

A commonly found salamander at Blanchard Springs Caverns in Mt. View, Arkansas, is the Cave salamander. The Cave salamander’s body is mostly yellow or orange with smaller dark spots. The Cave salamander is lungless.

The Rich Mountain salamander, endemic to the Ouachita Mountains can be found on Rich Mountain in Queen Wilhelmena State Park, Mena, Arkansas. Brad Holliman, Park Interpreter, suggests looking for this salamander under rocks and logs during the spring season. Dr. Henry Robinson, Professor at Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Arkansas, says that the Rich Mountain salamander is a woodlands salamander. This population got isolated. What makes this salamander so unusual? The thought is that there is enough moisture to lay their eggs under the rocks. They don’t have to make the long treck back to the streams or ponds to lay their eggs. You can learn more about the Rich Mountain salamander by reading Dr. Robinson’s new book, soon to be published, Amphibians and Reptiles in Arkansas.

References:

1. Creepy Crawlers/Salamanders by Lynn Stone, ISBN 1-55916-164-7

2.  Holliman,Brad. Interpreter: Queen Wilhelmena State Park, Mena, Arkansas.   Personal Interview.  March 1999.

3. Peterson First Guides Reptiles and Amphibians by Conant, Stebbins, and Collins ISBN 0-395-62232-8

4. Robinson, Dr. Henry.  Professor, Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia, Arkansas. Author of Only in Arkansas  Personal Interview.  March 1999.

5. Snakes, Salamanders and Lizards by Diane L. Burnes, ISBN 1-55971-627-4

Project Author: Karen Hankins


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