Somewhere, in the distance, a salamander barked…

Photo Credit: Gary Nafis
Photo Credit: Gary Nafis

Editor’s Note: Regarding the title – Could. Not. Resist. Sorry.

The family Dicamptodon is a sweet little packet of goodness. Commonly, they are known as “giant salamanders” even though they are not, in fact, the biggest salamanders around. I was not consulted in this naming process, so don’t blame me. While containing just a single genus and four species, they are few, but mighty in size, bark and bite. Members of this mainly terrestrial (although they can be paedomorphic) family may grow to be just over a foot long. They are known to be voracious eaters and a bit aggressive. “Aggressive salamander” sounds as oxymoron-ish as jumbo shrimp, christian scientist, or Chief Justice William Rehnquist, but check out this video below and judge for yourself.

These guys even eat small mammals (hey, don’t we all) and make a barking noise that sounds kind of like my stomach growling.

Finally, if you spend too much time on the internet looking up “salamander vocalization” (and oh yes, I do) you will eventually stumble upon some disturbing mormon business about a “talking white salamander”. This has me wondering if maybe Joseph Smith encountered a species of Dicamptodon , but it was “barking” and definitely not talking. Also, the correct translation was most likely “you are crazy and I’m not a spirit”. While salamanders are awesome, they are not supernatural.

To learn more, follow-up with this video from some California Conservation Corps members:

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

Meet the Amphiuma

photo: Tim Johnson caudata.orgThere are loads of salamanders that don’t necessarily fit into our idea of a salamander. The amphiuma is one example. There are three species of one-, two- and three-toed salamanders and all are fully aquatic. Depending on the species they can be between 33 and 110 cm, but their legs stay T-rex style. They inhabit the southeastern United States, and although relatively common they are sadly understudied.

Here is a video to learn more:

Even though the legs are vestigial, the amphiuma is still able to traverse across land.

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

Meet the Olm: Salamander Super-Ager

The olm is the only species in the genus Proteus within the Proteidae family (the other genus is Necturus). Olms are cave salamanders found in Southern Europe. Like many other derived groups of salamanders the males courts the females before depositing a spermatophore for her to pick up with her cloaca. Fertilization is internal in the olm. Continue reading “Meet the Olm: Salamander Super-Ager”

Meet the sexually empowered female Texas Blind Salamander

Courtship and sperm transfer in pygmy salamanders Desmognathus wrighti. From
Courtship and sperm transfer in pygmy salamanders, Desmognathus wrighti. From

The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) is in the Plethodontidae family, also known as lungless salamanders. There are over 400 species of plethodontids making them the most speciose family of salamanders. These salamanders have elaborate and stereotyped courtship rituals. Research has suggested that in general, the male initiates the mating ritual in salamanders. While research and data are sparse for Texas Blind Salamander, it has been reported in captivity that the female actually initiates the courtship behavior.

The female has been reported to rub her nose on the dorsum and side of the male near the cloacal region. Next, the female was observed to rub her cloacal region against the rocks on the bottom of the tank nearby the male. The nearby male began to show interest at this point and courtship ensued. The courtship sequence proceeded with the male depositing a spermatophore, leading the female, and finally the female’s cloaca aligned over the spermatophore to pick it up.

This courtship behavior account comes from a lovely paper in 1988 by Bechler in The Southwestern Naturalist.

Learn more about Plethodontidae here on the Amphibiaweb page.

“Meet the…” is a collaboration between The Finch & Pea and Nature Afield to bring Nature’s amazing creatures into your home.

Meet the Texas Blind Salamander

TX Blind Salamander picture 1The Texas Blind Salamander (Eurycea rathbuni) is a cave salamander that has adapted to life living in the dark. With extremely underdeveloped eyes, unpigmented skin, and the retention of its juvenile aquatic form, this salamander is perfectly suited to live in the underground cave streams. Found only in caves around San Marcos, Texas these salamanders are actually considered endangered on the State level. Because they live only in specific areas and rely on the Edwards aquifer, the Texas blind salamander is extremely susceptible to changes in water quality. Their size reaches between 3 and 5 inches and they eat a diet of most aquatic invertebrates. Continue reading “Meet the Texas Blind Salamander”

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