Incredible salamanders

PUBLISHED : Monday, 08 August, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Monday, 08 August, 2011, 12:00am


There are more than 500 species of salamander living in the world today. Most have long thin bodies, long tails, and four short legs with long toes. Some are plain black or brown, but others are red, black, yellow or green.

As amphibians, they live in many cool countries. They have to keep moist, so they like to live in damp places. They also like to hide during the day. One of their favourite hiding places is inside wet tree branches and logs.

The problem is that if someone picks up the wood and throws it in the fire, the animal has to get out very quickly.

In the past, it was common to see salamanders running out of the fireplace. Because of this, people used to link fire with the animal.

Some people thought that salamanders were made from fire. Others believed that they breathed fire. Everybody thought that they could walk through fire and not be hurt.

Today we know they were wrong - but it's a great story!

The fire salamander got its name from these old myths. Although it can't live in a fire, it does have special powers.

It has poison glands behind its eyes and on its back. This poison is strong enough to kill a dog. It's strong enough to make people very sick.


The world's largest salamander is the Chinese giant salamander. It can grow up to 2 metres long. When they breed, the male sits in the nest. Females can come in when they like but other males are chased away!

The giant palm salamander that lives in Central and South America is famous for its tongue. When an insect flies past, it flicks out its tongue and catches the insect in mid-air. It has the fastest, most powerful tongue in the world!


Lungless salamanders live in rivers in North and South America. They don't have lungs or gills. They breathe by absorbing oxygen through the skin.

Pet Crawlers

Tiger salamanders have beautiful red, black and yellow skin. They aren't easy to keep, but some people love them as pets.

These animals should be kept in a large glass cage. The babies live in water, just like fish do. Adult tiger salamanders need a bath to swim in, and a land area filled with earth and plants.

They have very sensitive skin, so you shouldn't touch them. But they can become very tame and will eat out of your hand.

Fab Fact

Male salamanders are called boars. Females are sows. Babies are called tadpoles. A group of salamanders is called a maelstrom and also a band.

Fab Fact

When a salamander is attacked, it drops its tail. The tail keeps moving and distracts its enemy.

The salamander isn't worried, because its tail will grow back in a few weeks. It can also regrow toes and legs.

Doctors study the animal because they want to know how it regrows parts of its body. The knowledge might one day help people regrow lost arms and legs, too. Wouldn't that be great?

Fact File

Salamanders are amphibians. When they are small, they have gills and live in water, just like fish do. When they grow up, they live on land and use lungs to breathe - just like we do.

Amphibians are cold-blooded. This means their body temperature depends on the environment. If a salamander wants to warm up, it has to sit in the sun! When the weather is very cold, it hibernates.

Salamanders need to keep moist. They absorb water through their skins all day long. To keep damp, they live in or near rivers, ponds and wetlands.

They are carnivores, eating insects, worms and snails. They also eat one another!

Their enemies include birds, fish and snakes.

Hong Kong presence

To see Chinese giant salamanders, visit Ocean Park. They are most active at night. The best time to see them is at the end of the day, just before the theme park closes.

The Hong Kong Warty Newt is a member of the salamander group. This little black animal lives in mountain streams in Hong Kong. The best places to look are the New Territories, Lantau Island and Hong Kong Island.

Newts have sensitive skin, so remember not to touch them. If you want a souvenir, take a picture!