Scintillating Facts about Salamanders

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Though they look like lizards, salamanders are very different. Lizards use their skin to block out the heat or to absorb the light, while salamanders must remain moist. Lizards are reptiles, with claws, scales, and five finger and five toes.

Fact 1: The order Caudate consists of 550 extant species, known as salamanders or newts. As amphibians, some salamanders are terrestrial adults, while others can spend their entire lives in water. Depending on where they spend the most time, salamanders can have simple lungs, internal gills and gill slits, external gills, or both lungs and gills. Some, with and without lungs or gills, can breathe through their skin.

Fact 2: Amphibious, salamanders preferred temperate climates but need semi-aquatic environments. Their skin is smooth, porous, and shiny, because they are breathing in air and water through their skin. Mucous glands coat the skin in a sticky layer that make the salamander hard to catch, reduces friction when swimming, and stops bacteria from getting into the salamander through the pores.

Fact 3: With a long and slender body, salamanders have 4 legs and a long tail. The legs stick out the sides of their bodies, for better balance when climbing over uneven ground. Not all salamanders have 4 legs or any legs at all, making them look like eels. They have large feet for their body, with short toes and no claws. The shape of the foot depends on how much climbing the salamander does. Typically, they will have 4 toes on the front feet and 5 on the rear.

Fact 4: Salamanders tend to have tiny teeth in their jaws, upper and lower. Even the larvae of salamanders have teeth, though these are conical. In the adult, the joint of attachment between the teeth and the jaw is flexible. The teeth pull in struggling prey, collapsing towards the back of the throat and then straightening up.  

Fact 5: The tongue of terrestrial salamanders is coated with sticky mucus from glands in the mouth. The sticky tongue shoots out of the mouth, sticks to the prey and returns to the mouth, all in about 10 milliseconds.

Fact 6: Salamander means ‘˜fire lover’ as salamanders were thought to have caused fires.

Fact 7: Salamanders are cold bloodied, which means their body temperature is determined by the air temperature around them.

Fact 8: Opportunistic predators, salamanders will eat anything small enough to fit into their mouths.

Fact 9: The Rough-skinned newt, Taricha granulosa, produces the most toxic substance known, which is made from a non-protein source. Even these newts are safe to handle, so long as the handler avoids ingesting any bit of the newt.

Fact 10: Salamanders have a limited capacity to regrow limbs. Toes and legs are possible, but the tail is often regrown. The tail might come off by itself when grabbed by a predator or the salamander can simply pull away from a caught tail. After detachment, the tail will move for a while, distracting predators from the salamander.

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