The fire salamander has a slender body colored black and patterned with yellow across its length. In some parts of their range the yellow may be replaced with red or orange. Their striking coloration is a warning to predators that they carry toxins which could be harmful to the predator.
Two of the main poison glands sit behind the head and are visible as bumps behind the eye.
On the underside they are colored grey and have less patterning.
An adult fire salamander will measure between 14 and 17cm (6-7in) long. On average they weigh 19.1g (0.67oz).
Females tend to be larger than males. The cloaca of males will also tend to be larger than that of the female.
The fire salamander is a carnivore which primarily feeds on invertebrates including beetles, worms and myriapods.
Occasionally they have been recorded feeding on larger animals such as tadpoles, frogs and newts.
Food is found using their sense of smell and sight.
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Europe is the native home of the fire salamander. Here they can be found in the following countries – Albania; Andorra; Austria; Belgium; Bosnia and Herzegovina; Bulgaria; Croatia; Czechia; France; Germany; Greece; Hungary; Italy; Liechtenstein; Luxembourg; Montenegro; Netherlands; North Macedonia; Poland; Portugal; Romania; San Marino; Serbia; Slovakia; Slovenia; Spain; Switzerland and Ukraine.
Their current presence in Turkey in uncertain.
They make their home in forests, dense bush and woodlands on the sides of mountains and hills. To breed they require water tending to favor shaded brooks and small rivers.
Fire salamanders have shown a tolerance for humans in their habitat and may live in gardens.
Breeding take places throughout spring and summer following a period of heavy rain.
Males hold the female from below and then deposit a spermatophore. They will then flip her to the side so she falls on to this.
From a single mating the female may store sperm for up to two years.
Females develop between 10 and 40 young within their body which are born live after 8 months.
At birth they have well developed legs but retain their larval gills. If females carry less young they are born more developed than with larger litters.
Young will leave the water after 2 to 3 months. They will reach maturity within five years.
Fire salamanders are primarily active at night. When they are inactive these animals will hide under a log or stone. They are most active after rain when they emerge to feed.
Females may be more active during the day throughout the breeding season.
Predators and Threats
Fire salamanders have glands across their skin from which they can secrete a toxin. This irritates skin which it comes in contact with and can also affect the animal’s central nervous system. In some animals it will paralyze the lungs and kill the animal.
Humans have affected their population through habitat destruction and alteration, pollution of the breeding sites, collection for the pet trade, population fragmentation and the introduction of invasive predators such as fish.
The disease chytridiomycosis which has been affecting amphibian populations worldwide has been found in some populations of the fire salamander.
The word salamander comes from an Arabic term which means ‘lives in fire.’ It is thought this comes from seeing salamanders crawl out of logs which were being burnt.
Jedesto, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Muséum de Toulouse, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
Petar Milošević, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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