Salamanders are generally associated with damp and wet places, as that is where most people see them. One might be curious as to where salamanders actually live.
Salamanders can live in water or on land, depending on what type of salamander it is. Salamanders can live in ponds, lakes, creeks, rivers, swamps or even under a rock.
There are certain reasons that dictate whether a salamander will live in water or on land. Quite a few factors count when deciding approximately what conditions and habitats a salamander will live in.
Knowing Salamanders With Relation To Their Habitats
There are three types of salamanders, depending on their choice of habitats. The three types are:
- Aquatic salamanders
- Terrestrial salamanders
- Semiaquatic salamanders
Due to having different habitats, their characteristics differ from each other in more ways than one.
What Are Aquatic Salamanders?
Aquatic salamanders are the ones that spend their whole lives in water. Aquatic salamanders have gills that do not transform into lungs after the larval stage.
These salamanders are born in the water. They go through their larvae stage to an adult stage in water. They reproduce exclusively through laying eggs that turn into larvae.
Aquatic salamanders exclusively depend on the food available in water as worms, shrimps etc.
These salamanders have very good swimming ability. Thus, in water, they can move much faster than their land-type counterparts. The speed gives them an advantage in catching fast-moving prey in the water.
Some aquatic salamanders have external gills so prominent that they can even breathe in very cold temperatures. The axolotl is one such salamander found in the lakes of Mexico.
Mudpuppies are very common as aquatic salamanders. They retain their gills and are found in North America.
Aquatic salamanders are not bound to gills. There are certain types of salamanders that use their skin to breathe underwater. The hellbender is one such aquatic salamander, which is the largest salamander in North America.
Some aquatic salamanders go a step beyond this by having gills and lungs at the same time. The siren from the family sirendae is a salamander that can retain its gills and grow lungs. That gives it a huge advantage over other aquatic salamanders.
What Are Semiaquatic Salamanders?
Salamanders that spend a certain period of time on land and the rest in water are commonly known as semiaquatic salamanders. These salamanders have a three stage life cycle.
The first stage is the larvae stage when they hatch from eggs and lead a fully aquatic life. They belong to this stage until they reach the juvenile period.
Unlike terrestrial or aquatic salamanders, semiaquatic salamanders have an extra stage as they pass the juvenile stage to reach maturity. Meanwhile, the other salamanders directly reach their adult stage. This stage is what makes them so unique. Because they spend the whole juvenile stage on land.
At the end of the juvenile period, the semiaquatic salamanders go back to the water to live the rest of their lives there. This is their final stage, as they reach their adult forms at this stage.
What Are The Most Common Fully Aquatic Salamanders?
The most common aquatic salamanders are, however,
- Salamander mollusk
- The Hellbender
- Giant salamanders
What Are Terrestrial Salamanders?
Terrestrial salamanders live fully on land, but that land has to be near a water body. These salamanders roam around on land and prefer dark, moist places. It helps them keep their sensitive skin hydrated.
Terrestrial salamanders spend their whole adult life on land. But they return to the water body in mating season as they lay eggs in water and from those larvae are born. Which, after the larvae stage, turn into land-living salamanders.
Salamanders do not roam around freely on open land. They choose habitats offering natural protection from the sun and predators. Salamanders choose large rocks, dead leaves or logs to live under.
Some salamanders live in trees. The arboreal salamander, which is found in California, is a type of salamander that is good at climbing and lives in trees.
Salamanders that live on land are genetically prepared for it. These salamanders have toes on their feet which they use to dig the soil. Their tails are more rounded. Their skin is smooth and has a shine.
Some well-known terrestrial salamanders are blotched tiger salamanders and northwestern salamanders, each having their own distinct physical outlook.
Do Salamanders Reproduce In Water?
Salamanders lay their eggs in water. The eggs then hatch in water. Also, the salamanders during mating season, which is normally in spring, come to the water bodies in search of potential mates.
The reproduction process for salamanders is quite fast. A female would start laying eggs in water anywhere from an hour to a few hours after mating. They lay hundreds of eggs in one spawning, but each of the eggs is laid individually.
The water body is crucial for reproduction as the eggs are then secured in a jelly mass underwater. Underwater plants and structures often provide stability protection.
The Exceptionally Rare Terrestrial Salamander
Lung less salamanders are unique in the category of terrestrial salamanders. It is because these salamanders can breathe underwater too, through their skin. But they are not aquatic salamanders due to their exclusive reproductive system.
Unlike other salamanders, the lung less salamander lays eggs on moist ground. When these eggs hatch, there are no larvae to change forms; rather, these salamanders are born in the shape and size of tiny salamanders.
These salamanders belong to the plethodondidae family.
The Aquatic Salamanders That Never Grow Up
The axolotls are aquatic salamanders that reach a juvenile stage like semiaquatic salamanders. But they do not reach the adult stage ever.
Moreover, they do not leave their water habitats in their juvenile stage.
They are, in fact, very attached to their aquatic habitat. These salamanders have the ability to regenerate their gills even if they are totally cut off. That is why, even after becoming a fully aquatic salamander, the axolotl never reaches metamorphosis.
The name of this aquatic salamander, ‘axolotl’, translates to ‘water monster’. It is due to the insane reproductive capacity it has.