Salamander, the popular name of most of the batrachian reptiles with persistent tail (urodela) which lose the gills in the adult condition (caducibranchiates). The family of am-phiumidoe has been noticed under Menopoma. The family salamandridoe has been divided into two groups, the aquatic and terrestrial, of which the former will be described under Triton. Schneider reunited the water and land salamanders into a single genus salamandra, comprising the genera salamandra and triton of Laurenti. Prof. Baird (in the "Journal of the Academy of Natural Sciences," vol. i., Philadelphia, 1850) makes no generic distinction between the aquatic and terrestrial species, though he subdivides salamandra into several genera established by Rafinesque, Tschudi, and others. The division into groups according to general habitat will be retained here, and the species now noticed will be those which belong to the old genus salamandra (Laurenti). In this group the body is lizard-like, the limbs four, the maxillary and palate bones with minute teeth, the tongue more or less pediculated and free; there is no sternum, the ribs are rudimentary, and the pelvis is suspended by ligaments; there are in the adults neither gills nor gill openings, and the lungs are well developed; the eyes are prominent and furnished with lids; the skin is without scales, and has numerous warty glands which secrete an acrid viscid fluid; the tail is generally cylindrical.
They live on land in the adult state, and are found in the water only during the breeding season; they frequent damp places, and are found only in the northern hemisphere, in Europe, and especially in North America. The young, instead of being wholly developed in the water, in some are retained so long within the oviduct that they are born alive, having undergone a portion of their metamorphosis; the young live constantly in the water and breathe by external gills, which disappear with the gill openings when the respiration becomes pulmonary; the anterior limbs are developed earlier than the posterior, the former having four and the latter five toes. From large glands behind the eyes and on the body is secreted a yellow matter so abundantly and rapidly, that it gave rise to the popular belief, once extensively prevalent, that they possess the power of extinguishing and of remaining unharmed in fire, to test which many have been cruelly destroyed; this acrid secretion seems to be poisonous to some of the lower animals, and has caused their bite and even their touch to be regarded as venomous. They rarely exceed 6 1/2 in. in total length.
Some of the tritons are essentially terrestrial in their habits. - Among the North American species may be mentioned, in the genus pseudotriton (Tschudi), the red-spotted salamander (P. ruber, Tsch.; S. rubra, Daudin), 4 to 6 in. long, red above with many small, black points, sides red and abdomen orange red, both unspotted; it is very common under rocks and fallen trees, and preys on insects; it inhabits the Atlantic states from Massachusetts to Florida; it is handsome, and the same as the S. maculata (Green). In this species the body is very short, and the tail is equal to or less than the body. The blue-spotted salamander (S. glutinosa, Green; plethodon, Tsch.) is about 7 in. long, bluish black above, with small white spots on back and tail and larger ones of the same color on the flanks; the tail is nearly twice the length of the body. This is common from Massachusetts to the gulf of Mexico, living in preference under fallen trees; the specific name was derived from the great quantity of glutinous matter suddenly given off from the skin.
The red-backed salamander (S. erythronota, Green; of the same genus of Tschudi) is about 3 in. long, with a reddish brown band from the snout to the end of the tail, the sides yellowish brown, and abdomen whitish; tail shorter than the body, and separated with great facility by the animal when seized by it, a faculty possessed by many of the family. It is very handsome and common, very agile, found under stones and dead trees with snails (helix) from the Lake Superior copper region to Pennsylvania; the eggs are deposited in packets under damp stones. The long-tailed salamander (S. longicauda, Green; spelerpes, Raf.) is about 6 in. long, of which the tail is more than half; the body is lemon yellow above with numerous small irregular black spots, tail with transverse black bands, and lower parts yellowish white; its habits are more aquatic than in most land salamanders; it is found from northern New York to Kentucky. The symmetrical salamander (S. symmetrica, Harlan; notopthalmus miniatus, Raf.) is about 4 in. long, brownish red above, with a row of symmetrically arranged deep red spots on each side; lower parts orange with black dots; tail longer than the body and compressed; skin rough.
It is found from Maine to Florida; in young specimens the whole back is covered with minute black dots, and the sides have fewer spots. The violet salamander (S. subviolacea, Bart.; amblystoma, Tsch.) is about 6 in. long, body and tail above bluish black with a row of round or oval yellow spots on each side, the under surface of the same color tinged with purple; it passes most of its time in moist places, and is found from Maine to South Carolina. In the species belonging to the last two genera of Rafinesque and Tschudi, there are no sphenoidal teeth, and the carpus and tarsus are ossified in the adults, and the tongue rudimentary in the former and large and fleshy in the latter; in the other subgenera sphenoidal teeth are sometimes present, and the tongue is generally protractile. Other genera and several other species of American salamanders are described by Baird in the above mentioned journal, in vol. x. of the Pacific railroad reports, and in vol. ii. of the Mexican boundary survey. They are all not only harmless, offering no resistance when captured, but are positively beneficial from the great numbers of noxious insects and larvae which they devour. - The common salamander of Europe (S. maculata, Mer-rem) is black with more or less large yellow spots.
It is found in central Europe, and in the mountainous parts of S. Europe, in cool and moist, places, and feeds on insects, worms, and small mollusks; it attains a length of 7 or 8 in.; it is viviparous, and produces 20 to 30 young at a birth.
Common European Salamander (Salamandra maculata).