Species Description: Linnaeus, C. 1758. Systema Naturae per Regna Tria Naturae, Secundum Classes, Ordines, Genera, Species, cum Characteribus, Differentiis, Synonymis, Locis. 10th Edition. Volume 1. Stockholm, Sweden: L. Salvii
© 2014 Alberto Sanchez-Vialas (1 of 417)
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Albania, Austria, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Luxembourg, Macedonia, the Former Yugoslav Republic of, Montenegro, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine
The Iberian Peninsula hosts a unique diversity of fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) lineages (up to nine described subspecies). In northern Spain, the subspecies S. s. bernardezi represents a distinct lineage (closely related to a northern Spanish lineage, S. s. fastuosa, and the Italian S. s. gigliolii), with remarkable phenotypic diversity across its small range. The subspecies demonstrates the largest variety of colour patterns observed in any Salamandra species, ranging from entirely bright yellow, over the more typical black with yellow stripes, to entirely black-brown animals. Salamandra s. bernardezi is well known for its stunning reproductive shift, evolving from larviparity (females give birth to aquatic larvae) to pueriparity (females deliver fully terrestrial juveniles). Since all taxa within the genus Salamandra are considered highly vulnerable to Bsal chytridiomycosis, the small range of the genetic entities of S. s. bernardezi puts them at high risk of massive population declines and possibly extinction if Bsal would invade (Guillermo Velo-Antón, pers.com.).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Females are active in daytime during the breeding period; afterwards adults are active at twilight, spending the day under logs, snags, stones, rodent burrows and holes. During rainy weather salamanders regularly leave their hiding places by day. The appearance of active salamanders on the land surface in day time indicates the approach of rain. Hibernation, typically in groups, occurs in the northern part of the range, whereas in the south (e.g., in Israel) activity ceases during hot summer period. Similarly, in central Europe reproduction occurs between spring and autumn, whereas at the south of the range it is confined to winter. Mating takes place on land, and male-male combats for a female often takes place. The species is typically viviparous, and the female releases the young into water, usually shallow brooks. The number of larvae per female, as well as their stage at birth time, varies among subspecies. Salamandra salamandra bernardezi and, sometimes, S. s. fastuosa give birth to completely metamorphosed young salamanders. Larval development takes several months, but in many cases they overwinter and finish their metamorphosis in the next year. Most larvae occur in fishless parts of brooks, which is caused by fish predation. As a rule, larvae start active feeding just after birth. Age changes in diet during ontogeny are minor and related mainly to the use of larger prey. Larvae consume primarily upon rheophilous invertebrates: Gammaridae, larval Ephemeroptera, Diptera, etc. In semi-flowing waters, typical limnophilous preys (e.g., Diaptomidae) are included in their diet. Adults do not consume the small preys that are eaten by juveniles: Acarina, Geophylomorpha, and Collembola. However, they eat large Mollusca, Myriapoda (Oniscomorpha, Polydesmida and Juliformia), Coleoptera, etc.
Trends and Threats
Although the IUCN status has not been updated, since 2010, there has been a precipitous decline in the species bringing it close to extinction by 2013. A captive breeding problem resulted in 49% of the captive animals dying of, then, unknown causes. It was later determined that a newly identified chytrid fungus was infecting the species, causing anorexia, apathy, and ataxia then death within 7 - 27 days (depending on method of exposure). The new fungus was named Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans and is not known to infect frogs (Martel et al. 2013).
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
This species has up to 13 subspecies.
This is the first species from which Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) infections have been identified (Martel et al. 2013).
This species was featured as News of the Week on 24 June 2019:
Although Fire Salamanders are assumed to be an aposematic species, where bright colors are viewed by potential predators as warning of toxicity, the costs associated with the honesty of their signaling and predator learning behavior has not been quantified. Preißler et al. (2019) tested whether the alkaloid content matched yellow coloration in a highly variable Fire Salamander population in Solling, Germany, (Salamandra salamandra terrestris) to determine if the species had an honest signal of toxicity. They found that the amount of yellow patterning did not correlate with the amount of toxins in individuals, as would be expected for a true aposematic species. The authors also found that the population was sexually dichromatic, with males being more yellow than females. Although these findings could be explained by sexual selection, statistical analysis of color variation indicated that site specific female choice was not a factor. These findings indicate that other, yet to be verified, biological processes are playing a role in the yellow coloration of Fire Salamanders, and that the toxins are produced by conserved bioactivity (Written by Ann T. Chang).
This species was featured as News of the Week on 17 August 2020:
The pathogenic amphibian fungus known as Bsal (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) may be the most potent amphibian disease and poses extreme risk to natural populations, especially in salamanders. First detected in Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) in extreme southeastern Netherlands and adjacent Belgium and reported in 2013, it has spread to western Germany (with new reports from Bavaria), where it is having devastating effects. An entire issue of the journal Salamandra (2020, vol 56, issue 3, open access and available as PDF) is devoted to Bsal research centered in Germany. Salamander populations have essentially disappeared from the northern Eiffel region and are threatened in the southern Eiffel and Ruhr regions. Bsal has been present in Germany for at least 16 years and has been found in laboratory populations of the Common Frog, Rana temporaria, and field populations of the Great Crested Newt, Triturus cristatus. It is known to infect salamandrid species from southeast Asia, which appear to have been the source of the European outbreaks via pet trade importation. The goal in highlighting this important set of papers as stated by the editors "must go beyond documenting declines towards understanding spatio-temporal disease dynamics and the factors influencing the spread and impact of Bsal in different situations." In light of the seriousness of the Bsal threat in Germany, the authors' common goal is a national Bsal Action Plan, which would be of great importance for the international community of amphibian biologists and for the public (Written by David B. Wake).
This species was featured as News of the Week on 6 September 2021:
The chytrid fungus Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) has recently emerged in Europe, where it is devastating salamander and newt populations. While the disease mainly affected northwestern Europe, it recently caused mass mortality in northern Spain. The Iberian peninsula is a hotspot of salamanders and newts, and in a joint effort between Spanish, Belgian and Australian scientists, Bosch et al. (2021) assessed the risk of Bsal for this salamander-rich region. Fortunately, Bsal appears to be limited to a single outbreak site at present. However, we identified six conservation units at high risk and priority areas as targets for the most urgent disease surveillance and biosecurity measures. The study stresses the importance of region specific conservation strategies, coupling efficient wildlife disease surveillance to the ability to rapidly and drastically respond, but equally points to the importance of "clean trade" (absence of pathogens from the amphibian trade), amphibian population monitoring and closing gaps of knowledge regarding salamander diversity. (Written by Frank Pasmans)
Bannikov, A. G., Darevsky, I. S., Ishchenko, V. G., Rustamov, A. K. and Szczerbak, N. N. (1977). Opredelitel Zemnovodnykh i Presmykayushchikhsya Fauny SSSR. Prosveshchenie, Moscow.
Freytag, G.E. (1955). Feuersalamander und Alpensalamander (Die Neue Brehm Bücherei Bd. 142). A. Ziemsen, Wittenberg-Lutherstadt.
Gasc, J. P. , Cabela, A., Crnobrnja-Isailovic, J., Dolmen, D., Grossenbacher,K., Haffner, P., Lescure, J., Martens, H., Martinez Rica, J. P.,Maurin, H., Oliveira, M. E., Sofianidou, T. S., Vaith, M., and Zuiderwijk, A. (1997). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica and Muséum National d’Histoire Naturelle, Paris.
Greven, H. and Thiesmeier, B., eds. (1994). Biology of Salamandra and Mertensiella (Mertensiella Supplement 4). DGHT, Bonn.
Griffiths, R.A. (1996). Newts and Salamanders of Europe. T. and A. D. Poyser, London.
Klewen, R. (1988). Die Landsalamander Europas, Teil I, Die Gattungen Salamandra und Mertensiella. A.Ziemsen, Wittenberg Lutherstadt.
Kuzmin, S. L. (1995). Die Amphibien Russlands und angrenzender Gebiete. Westarp Wissenschaften, Magdeburg.
Kuzmin, S. L. (1999). The Amphibians of the Former Soviet Union. Pensoft, Sofia-Moscow.
Martel, A., Spitzen-van der Sluijs, A., Blooi, M., Bert, W., Ducatelle, R., Fisher, M.C., Woeltjes, A., Bosman, W., Chiers, K., Bossuyt, F., Pasmans, F. (2013). ''Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. nov. causes lethal chytridiomycosis in amphibians.'' PNAS, 110(38), 15325-15329.
Nöllert, A. and Nöllert, C. (1992). Die Amphibien Europas. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH and Company, Stuttgart.
Szczerbak, N. N. and Szczerban, M. I. (1980). Zemnovodnye i Presmykayushchiesya Ukrainskikh Karpat [Amphibians and Reptiles of Ukrainian Carpathians]. Naukova Dumka, Kiev.
Thiesmeier, B. (1992). Okologie des Feuersalamanders. Westarp Wissenschaften, Essen.
Originally submitted by: Sergius L. Kuzmin (first posted 1999-10-06)
Description by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-07-18)
Distribution by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-09-06)
Comments by: Michelle S. Koo (updated 2021-09-06)
Edited by: Meredith J. Mahoney, Ann T. Chang, Michelle S. Koo (2021-09-06)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Salamandra salamandra: Fire Salamander <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4284> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 27, 2021.
Feedback or comments about this page.
Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2021. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 27 Sep 2021.
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.