Common animal of very singular appearance
In the forests of Europe inhabits a very unique looking animal known as the fire salamander. Its body of wet black skin has bright orange or yellow markings, similar to burning flames. These animals are so fascinating and mysterious that many years ago it was mistakenly believed that they could resist fire and even put it out with their bodies!
The fire salamander is an urodele amphibian, which means that it has a tail. It measures between 13 to 30 cm (5 to 12 inches) and lives in humid and shady forests. It is nocturnal, during the day it remains hidden under stones or branches and trunks of fallen trees. But in the rainy season it is possible to find it quietly prowling on the ground.
- The vast majority of salamanders are ovoviviparous. The females keep the eggs inside to protect them from predators. It then expels the larvae into small pools of water like puddles. This is where the larvae continue their process of metamorphosis.
- Only two subspecies known as fastuosa and bernadezi are viviparous. That is, the larvae complete their metamorphosis within the female’s womb and hatch into their adult form.
- The larvae breathe through gills. However, when they reach adulthood, they have very rudimentary lungs, since most of the respiratory process is carried out through the skin.
- They are carnivorous. The varied menu of adult salamanders includes worms, snails, earthworms, arachnids, and insects.
- The bright coloration of their bodies protects them from predators by serving as a warning that they are poisonous, which is known as “aposematism”.
- They have few natural predators, due to the toxins in their skin, which can sicken or kill predators.
- The salamanders’ most feared enemy is a fungus called Bsal. This deadly fungus prevents them from absorbing oxygen through the skin.