Can Salamander Breathe Underwater?

Can Salamander Breathe Underwater

If you notice a salamander on land, you might wonder whether a salamander can breathe underwater or not. Since salamanders can make their habitats on land, people assume that they can’t breathe underwater. To alleviate your confusion, we’ve dug out some information to know more about their breathing underwater.

Salamander can breathe underwater. Most of the time, their gills support them to breathe underwater. If a salamander doesn’t have any gills, it can breathe through its skin and mouth.

You might want to know more about their tactics and processes of breathing underwater which we’ve mentioned. For this, we urge you to go through the details of this article.

How Can A Salamander Breathe Underwater?

Salamander is a lizard-like amphibian. Do you know that “amphibian” means double life? Because they can live part of their lives in water and another share on land. Consequently, salamanders are also no exception.

To survive on both water and land, they have multiple respiratory organs. As lungs help breathe on the land, let’s see which other organs salamanders possess to breathe underwater.

  • Gills
  • Skin
  • Mouth
  • Throat

These four things help salamanders breathe underwater. But, they may not have all of these organs at the same time. In different stages of life, salamanders breathe with various organs underwater.

Classifications Of Salamander According To Respiratory Organs

Firstly, we need to know the classifications of salamanders according to the amount of time living in the water. Because this will denote their respiratory organs. By this, we can divide salamanders into three groups.

  • Aquatic Salamanders
  • Terrestrial Salamanders
  • Amphibious Salamanders
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Among these three groups, aquatic salamanders never leave the water. Thus, they always breathe with their gills.

On the contrary, terrestrial salamanders hardly go into the water and so, they lose their gills. When they go into the water, their skin, mouth, and throat help them breathe underwater.

The last one – amphibious salamanders usually breathe with their gills and skin underwater.

We’ll know details here about which organs the species of salamanders use to breathe underwater.

Salamanders Respiratory Organs To Breathe Underwater Gills

A large number of salamander breathe underwater with gills. But, not all salamanders have gills.

You’ll surely find gills’ presence in the larvae stages of all salamanders. Again, some aquatic salamanders also breathe with the help of gills underwater.

Some salamanders lose their gills when they become adults. Besides, some salamanders keep gills all of their life.

Number Of Gills In Salamanders

In case you’re wondering, how many gills does a salamander have! A salamander contains three pairs of gills to breathe underwater.

The interesting fact is that these are external gills. It means a salamander’s gills are exposed to the environment instead of setting inside the body.

Animals usually possess just one external gill whereas the salamanders turn out to be lucky to have three pairs! Again, some species of salamander have only external gills (three pairs).

Some species have a set of internal gills. Again, some species of salamander contain a combination of both types of gills.

These gills look feathery. Moreover, some salamanders have larger gills and some salamanders have smaller ones. Because, it depends on the locomotion of the water.

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The salamanders (larvae or adults), who live in moving water-like streams, have smaller gills. On the contrary, salamanders of non-moving water have comparatively larger gills.

Gills’ Working Process To Breathe

We’ve come to know that a large number of their species contain external gills. Also, some species have internal gills too. Both types of gills work quite differently underwater.

Firstly, let’s know about the external gills’ working process underwater. When a salamander gulps water, it pumps out the water through the slits.

Then, the water reached over the gills. Then, the gills extract the oxygen from the water.

In the case of internal gills, these work similarly as they work in fish. Along with the blood vessels, gills help extract the dissolved oxygen from the water.

In this way, both external and internal gills function properly to breathe underwater.

_Salamanders Who Lose And Retain Gills

List Of Salamanders Who Lose And Retain Gills

All larval salamanders have three sets of external gills to breathe underwater. In their metamorphosis stage, some species of salamander lose their gills. But, some species retain or keep their gills throughout their entire life.

Let’s check out a small list of salamanders who lose their gills and who retain.

  Salamanders Who Retain Gills Throughout Their Life    Salamanders Who Lose Gills When They Are Adult  
Lesser SirenFire Salamanders
Neuse River WaterdogTiger Salamanders
OlmSpotted Salamanders
Alabama WaterdogEastern Tiger Salamanders
Greater SirenMarbled Salamanders
Apalachicola WaterdogRedback Salamanders
HabrosaurusWehrle’s Salamanders
Gulf Coast WaterdogNorthern Slimy Salamanders
Dwarf WaterdogJefferson Salamanders
Escambia WaterdogNorthern Red Salamanders
Dwarf SirenFour Toed Salamanders
Red River MadpuppyMountain Dusky Salamanders
AxolotlMole Salamanders
North Western SalamandersLake Patzcuaro salamander


Salamander’s other medium for respiration is their skin. Usually, lungless salamanders breathe through their skin.

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Also, those salamanders, who don’t own both gills and lungs, have skin as their only hope to breathe. On the other hand, some species of salamander can breathe in three ways.

The specialty of their skin is its permeability. That means it has openings allowing liquids or gases to pass through.

How Do Salamanders Breathe Through Their Skin?

It’s quite phenomenal how salamanders can absorb oxygen from underwater through the skin. Their skin is designed to spread or enhance the surface area by folding each side.

As a result, this allows salamander to draw in more oxygen from water.

That’s why, this kind of breathing system of salamander is called cutaneous respiration.

 In this way, an animal can absorb or soak water through the skin directly into its bloodstream. Even pollutants present in the water can be absorbed through their skin.

Scientists found out that salamanders’ anatomy is quite different from other amphibians. There’s the presence of such blood vessels. Besides, in the case of other animals, it goes to the lungs. But, in the case of salamanders, it goes to the skin.

This blood vessel helps salamanders breathe through their skin underwater.

_Fourche Mountain Salamander

Which Salamanders Breathe Through Skin Underwater?

Salamanders have a huge number of species. All of them have variations in their respiration. Thus, we’ve researched finding out some salamander who breathe underwater through the skin.

There are also many more salamanders beside the list who breathe like this. So, let’s enjoy this shortlist for now.

        Salamanders That Breathe Through Skin Underwater
 Fourche Mountain Salamander
Brook Salamander
Black Salamander
Clouded Salamander
Many Lined Salamander
Sacramento Mountain Salamander
Red Hills Salamander
Web Toed Salamander
Mushroom Tongued Salamander
Spring Salamander
Mountain Stream Salamander
Woodland Salamander
Nauta Salamander
Clouded Salamander
Slender Salamander
Black Salamander
Climbing Green Salamander
Limestone Salamander

Mouth And Throat

Salamander’s mouth and throat work as respiratory organs. These work together along with the skin.

Certainly, salamander’s anatomy is a great wonder. That’s why, they have a thin, mucous membrane in their mouth and throat. This membrane can extract oxygen from the water.

For this reason, salamanders can breathe through the membranes of their mouth and throat. The salamanders, who can breathe through the skin, can breathe through the membrane lining of the mouth and throats too.

Final Words

Being an amphibian, a salamander doesn’t face any hassle to breathe underwater and on land. Their anatomy brings great convenience with gills, skin, the membrane of the mouth and throat to breathe underwater.

 So, salamanders can definitely breathe underwater.

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Muntaseer Rahman

About Author

Hello, I’m Muntaseer Rahman, the owner of I’m passionate about aquarium pets like shrimps, snails, crabs, and crayfish. I’ve created this website to share my expertise and help you provide better care for these amazing pets.


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