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Salamanders

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Characteristics
 

Salamanders belong to a group called either Urodela, or Caudata. Salamanders keep their tails all their lives. Salamanders have small weeklimbs, apparently they resemble the unrelated lizards which are called reptiles.They are easily distinguished by their lack of scales and claws, and by their moist smooth moist skin. Most salamanders are dull in color, but some, such as fire salamanders, have sparkling yellow, orange, red, or red markings. Salamanders that spend all or part of their lives on land have a tendency to be delicate, with small heads, slender bodies, and a sprawling manner of walking that comes from moving the two legs that are diagonally opposite from one another at the same time. Aquatic salamanders are usually larger and often have reduced limbs. Some aquatic salamanders have no hind legs at all. The front limbs of most species end in four fingers, and the rear legs typically end in five toes.

Life History

Salamanders are decendants of the first animals with backbones to live on land, salamanders are one of the oldest groups of existing terrestrial. The earliest known true salamanders lived about 150 millon years ago during the Jurassic Period. Today there are about 380 different species of salamanders belonging to 10 different families.

Diet

Most salamnders are carnivorous - that is, they eat other animal rather than plants. Adult salamanders that live in water prey on the larvae of frogs, known as tadpoles, and various invertebrates, including snails and wonrms.Some also eat small fish. These salamanders locate prey by smell and ingest it by opening their mouth in to the water and sucking in their prey.

Habitat

Salamanders are usually found in damp regions, the temperature is usually in the northern zone and are most abundant in North America. Most salamanders live on earth as adults. Salamanders are nocturnal. However, all types of salamanders avoid direct sunlight.

Breeding

Most salamanders breed in water and are sociable at breeding time, there is usually a love display.Some terrestrial male salamanders create scent to attract females. Among lungless salamanders of the western hemphisphere, males use their chins to rub the heads of females. In most speices of salamnders fertilization is internal. The male deposits sperm packets, which the females picks up with the cloaca ( a chamber that opens into an animals digestive and urianary tracts as well as their reproductive system) which is then stored until fertilization takes place. The eggs are surroundedby gelatinous material, are usually laid in ponds or brooks. A few types of salamanders breed on land, they lay their eggs under rotting vegataion.

Salamanders Larvae

After the eggs are laid in a pond or brook, they develop into aqautic larvae that can breathe by means of gills. If salamanders breeds on land (under rotting vegetation) the larvae go through the gilled stage in the egg, emerging as miniature adults. Forms of these salamanders are the red backed salamanders (Plethodon cinereus), the slimy salamanders (P. glutinosus) of East Untied States, and also the slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus) of the Pacific coast.

Metamorphisis

Most salamanders, including most that remain in aquatic enviroment go through a typical amphibian metamorphosis into air-breathing adluts. Usually the adults have lungs, but in the large family of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) breathing occurs entirely through the skin and the lining in the throat. In a few salamanders growth occurs without metamorphosis, and the gilled adolescent form is still able to reproduce. This phenonmenon ( called neoteny) is found in the sirens of South Untied and North America, in the mud puppies, and the Mexican axilotl.

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