AmphibiaWeb - Lyciasalamandra luschani


(Translations may not be accurate.)

Lyciasalamandra luschani (Steindachner, 1891)
Lycian salamander, Lykischer salamander, kleinasiatischer salamander, Luschan's salamander, Kollane pikksabalik, Salamandra de Licìa, Salamandre de Lycie, Mertensiella di Luschan, Luschani szalamandra, Egeïsche landsalamander, Okasalamanteri, Lykisk salam
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Salamandrinae
genus: Lyciasalamandra
Species Description: Steindachner, F. (1891). "Über einege neue und seltene Reptilien- und Amphibien-Arten. Sitzungsberichte der Kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften." Mathematisch-Naturwissenschaftliche Classe, 100: 289–314.

© 2019 Wouter Beukema (1 of 51)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN Red List Status Account Vulnerable (VU)
National Status None
Regional Status Bern Convention (Annex 2), 2002.



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.


Lyciasalamandra luschani is a newt with a total length that is usually between 110 and 140 mm. The tail is usually equal to or slightly shorter than snout-vent-length. The head is flat and somewhat longer than wide. Well-defined parotoid glands are present at the back of the head. There are 11 - 13 weakly defined costal grooves present at either side of the long, cylindrical body. There is a distinctive skin fold on the throat (Boehme et al 1999).

The coloration is the easiest method to differentiate the species and subspecies in the genus Lyciasalamandra. However other morphological characters differentiate full species from each other. Specifically, L. luschani can be differentiated morphologically from Lyciasalamandra antalyana due to L. antalyana having two phalanges on the first digit of their hands and feet instead of one like the other members of the genus (Veith and Steinfartz 2004). Each subspecies’ and species’ ranges are unique as well and they can be differentiated geographically. Lyciasalamandra l. finikensis can also be differentiated from other species and subspecies by having a defensive call, which none of the other taxa in the genus possess (Beukema et al. 2009).

In life, coloration in this species is highly variable and subspecies specific. As of February 2023, there are three distinct subspecies that make up L. luschani.

Lyciasalamandra l. luschani: The base color of the back is bright yellow or silver-white. The dark brown or black spots on the back, however, can extend to fully cover the bright base color. The extremities are black, reddish or pale brown. The venter is sparsely pigmented and somewhat translucent (Boehme et al. 1999).

Lyciasalamandra l. basoglui: The base color of the back varies from brown to pale red, and is brighter on the parotoid glands. The brown or black spots that are distributed across the back are more extensive in females than in males. The head, tail, and sides of the extremities are bright red-pink and sparsely covered with brown spots. The large yellow ovaria in females can be seen through the skin of the back (Boehme et al. 1999).

Lyciasalamandra l. finikensis: The base color of the back is very dark, and is covered with silver-white spots that have the tendency to form larger bright areas. The dorsal coloration completely lacks red or yellow. The white lateral band is sometimes dissolved into white blotches. The ventral side is pale, sometimes with white spots (Boehme et al. 1999).

There is distinct sexual dimorphism in this genus. In contrast to females, the males possess a spike-shaped protuberance, or hedonistic gland, on the dorsal surface of the tail base and nuptial pads on the forelegs, which are most well-developed during the breeding season (Boehme et al. 1999). The protuberance is thought to have a function in predisposing the females' cloaca for uptake of the spermatophore (Sever et al. 1997).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Greece, Turkey


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.

The distribution of L. luschani is centered around southwestern Turkey. It is in both the Aegean and Western Turkey sclerophyllous and mixed forests and the Southern Anatolian montane conifer and deciduous forests (Yasar et al. 2021). In addition to mainland Turkey, the species is also found on four Turkish islands and one (politically) Greek island off the Turkish coast. The Greek island of Kastellorizon is inhabited by L. l. basoglui. This subspecies also occurs on Kekova (Weisrock 2001).

The subspecies’ distributions, as well as sister species’ distributions, have been attributed to the emergence of the Mid-Aegean Trench about 9 - 13 million years ago (Veith et al. 2016). The species is also limited to boulder fields near karstic limestone formations where they live underground (Veith et al. 2016).

Limestone cave systems offer the salamanders a cool and humid retreat during the dry and hot summer (Lymberakis et al. 2009). Their natural habitat, however, ranges from pinewoods at sea-level to dry vegetation. The specialized reproductive biology of L. luschani allows it to inhabit areas devoid of surface water (Lymberakis et al. 2009).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

Lyciasalamandra luschani is mostly active at night during the cooler winter months, and can then be quite abundant. Mating also takes place during this period. Activity is highest at the surface during and after rainfall and at dropping atmospheric pressure (Sever et al. 1997).

This species reproduces independently of water. The protuberance on the tail-base is rubbed against the female cloaca during the ventral amplexus, but its precise function is unknown (Sever et al. 1997).

One egg develops in each horn of the uterus. The larvae feed through intrauterine oophagy. There is no evidence of a zona trophica and therefore no epithelofagy, or consumption of skin. The two young emerge, fully developed, after 5 to 8 months. They can measure as long as 7 cm upon birth, and weigh up to 2 grams. Sexual maturity is reached at an age of three years in captivity. Longevity is estimated at over ten years (Boehme et al. 1999).


Lyciasalamandra luschani reproduces via live birth (Boehme et al. 1999).

Trends and Threats

Small island populations of L. luschani encounter the same problems as all other rare species, such as loss of genetic diversity and increased sensitivity to climate and habitat change. The main threats to the mainland populations are habitat destruction and compulsive collectors (Gasc 1997). Specifically, forest fires have been a major cause of habitat destruction (Lymberakis et al. 2009). Species with such narrow ecological demands are easily threatened by small changes in their environment. Increasing popularity of the Turkish Mediterranean coast as a tourist destination can pose a serious threat for this species (Boehme et al. 1999).

Relation to Humans

Lyciasalamandra luschani is threatened by compulsive collectors (Gasc 1997).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Subtle changes to necessary specialized habitat
Loss of genetic diversity from small population phenomena
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)


Based on Maximum Likelihood and Bayesian analyses of 4500 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA, it is unclear which species is sister to L. luschani. The results show a polytomy with speciation occurring when the islands in the Mediterranean separated from the mainland (Veith et al. 2016).

This species was previously placed in the genus Mertensialla as sister species to M. caucasica. Weisrock et al. (2001), subsequently placed the species within Salamandra based on mitochondrial DNA. They also identified five lineages other than L. luschani, diagnosable via color pattern, which have since been confirmed by researchers to represent distinct species and not subspecies of L. luschani (Veith et al. 2016). The species was later move to the newly formed Lyciasalamandra by Veith and Steinfartz (2004). The now elevated species are L. flavimembris, L. fazilae, L. billae, L. anatalyana, and L. atifi (Veith et al. 2016).

Lyciasalamandra helverseni was also considered a subspecies of L. luschani, but has now been elevated to a full species level from evidence by Veith et al. (2016).

As of 2020, there are 20 lineages in the genus Lyciasalamandra with six full species in this genus found in Turkey (Kurnaz 2020) and one full species, L. helverseni, found in Greece (Oğuz et al. 2016).

The genus name, “Lyciasalamandra,” is drawn from the ancient Roman name “Lycia” for the southern area of Turkey, and “Salamandra” from its closely related sister genus (Veith and Stenifartz 2004).


Beukema, W., de Pous, P., and Brakels, P. (2009). "Remarks on the morphology and distribution of Lyciasalamandra luschani finikensis with the discovery of a new isolated population." Zeitschrift fur Feldherpetologie, 16(1), 115 - 126. [link]

Boehme, W., Grossenbacher, K., and Thiesmeier, B. (1999). Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas, band 4/I:Schwanzlurche (Urodela). Aula-Verlag, Wiesbaden.

Gasc, J.-P. (1997). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Bonn, Germany.

Kurnaz, M. (2020). "Species List of Amphibians and Reptiles from Turkey." Journal of Animal Diversity, 2(4), 10 - 32. [link]

Lymberakis, P., Kaska, Y., Kumlutaş, Y., Avci, A., Üzüm, N., Yeniyurt, C., Akarsu, F., Tok, V., Ugurtas, I.H., Sevinç, M., Crochet, P.-A., Papenfuss, T., Sparreboom, M., Kuzmin, S., Anderson, S., Denoel, M. (2009). “Lyciasalamandra luschani (errata version published in 2016).” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T41241A86525768. Accessed on 01 February 2023.

Sever, D. M., Sparreboom, M., and Schultschik, G. (1997). "The dorsal tail tubercle of Mertensiella caucasica and M. luschani (Amphibia: Salamandridae)." Journal of Morphology, 232, 93-105.

Veith, M., Göçmen, B., Sotiropoulos, K., Kieren, S., Godmann, O., Steinfartz, S. (2016). ''Seven at one blow: the origin of major lineages of the viviparous Lycian salamanders (Lyciasalamandra Veith and Steinfartz, 2004) was triggered by a single paleo-historic event.'' Amphibia-Reptilia , 37, 373-387.

Veith, M., Steinfartz, S. (2004). ''When non-monophyly results in taxonomic consequences – the case of Mertensiella within the Salamandridae (Amphibia: Urodela).'' Salamandra, 40(1), 67-80.

Weisrock, D. W., Macey, J. R., Ugurtas, I. H., Larson, A. and Papenfuss, T. J. (2001). ''Molecular phylogenetics and historical biogeography among salamandrids of the “true” salamander clade: Rapid branching of numerous highly divergent lineages in Mertensiella luschani associated with the rise of Anatolia.'' Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution, 18(3), 434-448.

Yaşar, Ç., Çiçek, K., Mulder, J., and TOK, C. V. (2021). "The distribution and biogeography of amphibians and reptiles in Turkey." North-Western Journal of Zoology, 17(2), 232 - 275. [link]

Originally submitted by: Arie van der Meijden, Meredith J. Mahoney (first posted 1999-12-15)
Description by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)
Distribution by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)
Life history by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)
Larva by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)
Trends and threats by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)
Relation to humans by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)
Comments by: Nessa Kmetec (updated 2023-02-28)

Edited by: Meredith J. Mahoney, Tate Tunstall, Michelle Koo, Ann T. Chang (2023-02-28)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2023 Lyciasalamandra luschani: Lycian salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 22, 2024.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2024. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 22 May 2024.

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