Last Reviewed and Updated on February 25, 2023
With their striking black and yellow coloration, these amphibians are pretty unmistakable. These creatures are most commonly found in the forests across Europe, where they are part of much folklore. Read on and learn some fun facts about fire salamanders.
About Fire Salamanders
Fire salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) are a type of amphibian that belongs to the family Salamandridae. They are found in most parts of Europe as well as in parts of Asia and North Africa, typically in damp forests and near water, where they can lay their eggs in the water.
They typically have black and yellow markings, but the markings can also be orange or red. Adults are 5.9–9.8 in / 15-25 cm long on average and weigh about 1.4 ounces / 40 grams.
Fire salamanders are carnivorous and feed on insects, spiders, earthworms, and other small invertebrates.
These amphibians breed in the spring. In most subspecies, first, the eggs develop and hatch internally, and then the females lay their offspring in the water, and the larvae develop into adults that return to land.
Fire salamanders conservation status is listed as the least concern.
Interesting facts about fire salamanders
Ready to explore so,e of the most intriguing facts about salamanders? Read on!
Also, read the following:
1. Their coloration is honest signaling of their toxicity
Many amphibians produce toxins as a defense mechanism against predators. These toxins can be lethal or harmful to predators. More often than not, the coloration is an indication of toxicity, and it serves as a deterrent for predators. The more vivid the colors, the likelier it is the toxins are strong.
While some species which aren’t toxic display coloration, mimicking poisonous animals, the fire salamander has honest signaling, meaning they are genuinely toxic.
The amount of coloration a single animal has (more yellow, for example) does not mean the fire salamander is more toxic (study: More yellow, more toxic?)
2. They catch their prey with their teeth or with their sticky tongue
To capture its prey, the fire salamander will either use its sharp teeth if the prey is close enough or its long, sticky tongue. The tongue is coated in a sticky secretion that allows the salamander to snag its prey from a moderate distance and bring it back to its mouth.
3. Fire salamanders undergo a complete metamorphosis
Unlike axolotls that don’t transition to terrestrial form, the fire salamanders undergo a complete metamorphosis, going from a larval stage, with most subspecies having aquatic larvae, to a fully-grown terrestrial adult. During the larval stage, fire salamanders have gills, and they mostly live in water. As they approach maturity, they begin to fully grow their legs and lose their gills. At this time, their lungs become fully functional. Eventually, they leave the water and live on land as adults.
4. They have a long lifespan
A fire salamander that was kept in Museum Koening in Germany lived for more than 50 years.
On average, their lifespan is over 20 years.
5. They are mainly nocturnal but are active during rainy days
Fire salamanders are typically active in the evening and at night, but they are also active during the day if it is raining or the weather is cool and damp.
During the daytime, fire salamanders usually hide in cool, damp places such as under logs, rocks, and leaf litter.
6. Male fire salamanders rub their chin on the female to show their interest
Fire salamanders court on land. The male will approach the female and will block her path. He will proceed by rubbing her with his chin to show his interest.
7. Some subspecies give birth to fully formed metamorphs
The eggs are fertilized and develop internally in all species. The eggs hatch inside, and the females of most species deposit the larvae into the water just as they hatch.
With at least two subspecies of fire salamanders, fastuosa and bernadezi, the female doesn’t deposit the larvae as they hatch. The larvae continue to develop within the female, and she gives birth to fully formed metamorphs. These two species are viviparous, while others are ovoviviparous.
8. Larvae of fire salamanders are not toxic
Larvae do not produce toxins; the toxins start developing as they mature.
9. Their toxins are potentially dangerous to humans
They are pretty, but you should not touch them, as their toxins can cause skin irritation. Fire salamanders generally don’t pose a serious risk to humans unless the toxin is consumed.
10. They have a strong presence in folklore
From Ancient Greece to more modern times, fire salamanders had a role to play in folklore.
One of the most common folklore beliefs about fire salamanders is that they are immune to fire and can even extinguish flames with their skin secretions.
Another popular belief is that fire salamanders are creatures of magic and are associated with witches and wizards. They were an important ingredient in making potions.