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Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra). Great Malaga Path

Diputación de Málaga
Foto 4 Rafael Haro Salamandra sobre el musgo después de las lluvias

Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra). Great Malaga Path

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Phenology
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Active adults Larvae in the water
Animal Life > Amphibians

IDENTIFICATION  

It is a big (up to 25 cm of total length) anura (amphibian without a tail in adult age). The head and the tail (without crest) are well differentiated from the body, which has an almost cylindrical shape. It has a smooth, shiny, black skin, with many yellow spots. Its larvae are very characteristic (3 to 4.5 cm of total head-tail length). The head is large and the gills are obvious and feathery. They always have four legs. They are ochre or brown, looking more like adults when the metamorphosis moment approaches.

WHERE DOES IT LIVE (HABITAT) 

This forest species is associated with humid and shady areas, although it is also present in grass or scrub areas, provided that rainfall and humidity are high and if there are wetlands nearby. The larvae develop in small water masses: whether natural, such as small streams and ponds, or artificial, such as drinking troughs, fountains and mineral springs. They are present in all types of forests, being more abundant in deciduous masses where they move among the litter. 

HOW DOES IT LIVE?

Adult salamanders are terrestrial animals, the females go to the water only to bear the larvae. This is why adults have lungs and larvae gills. They mainly have twilight and nocturnal habits. Adults are especially active during rainy nights or in case of high humidity. Both adults and larvae are invertebrates predators, terrestrial in the case of the former, and aquatic in the case of the latter.

HOW DOES IT REPRODUCE?

Salamanders are ovi-viviparous: the larvae (between 25 and 45 per parturition) are born inside the mother's uterus, which will later necessarily bear them in water. The mother must move around the forest floor looking for a water point where she can give birth to its offspring. It is common to find them in fountains and watering places, especially in the limestone mountain ranges, where streams are scarce due to the permeable type of rocks. The larvae development lasts from 3 to  5 months, then they perform a metamorphosis in which they acquire the characteristics of adult age and leave the water.

WHERE CAN WE SEE IT IN MALAGA AND ON THE STAGES OF THE GREAT PATH?

It is a common species in Malaga, linked to mountain areas and distributed throughout the Ronda mountains range and its foothills. It is scarcer towards the east, where it is only found in the Antequera mountains, Villanueva del Rosario and Villanueva del Trabuco. In the Great Path, we can find it on stages 11, 20, 23 to 33.

LEVEL OF PROTECTION - THREAT (INVENTORY)

The Malaga salamanders belong to a subspecies (Salamandra salamandra longirostris), endemic to the provinces of Cádiz and Málaga, although its eastern populations are declining. This salamander is part of the Andalusian Wildlife Species under Special Protection List.

CURIOUS FACTS  

The striking colour of the salamanders has an aposematic meaning (apo, far, sema, signal): they emit warning signals to keep their predators away. Like many other species, for example, wasps, the salamander warns its possible predators that it is a toxic and very bad-tasting animal thanks to its striking colouration. They have few predators and those who dare to capture them (such as otters) have learned to skin them skilfully before consuming them. In Malaga, the salamander is also usually named the common gecko, a reptile to which it has no link. The general form of both animals and the similarity of their common names must be at the origin of such a confusion.

SIMILAR SPECIES (IT CAN BE MISTAKEN WITH...) 

Adult salamanders are unmistakable. The larvae are distinguished from the Iberian ribbed newt and the pygmy newt by their well-developed limbs and short fingers, as well as by the presence of a visible yellow spot at the base of each leg.

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