Salamandra salamandra
Fire Salamander
Subgenus: Salamandra
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Salamandrinae

© 2005 Dr. Amadej Trnkoczy (1 of 408)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
Other International Status Not threatened
National Status Red Data Book of Ukraine.
Regional Status Bern Convention (Annex 3).



View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (446 records).

Tail cylindrical, shorter than body with head. Conspicuous parotoid glands behind eyes are pigmented. Dorsal and lateral skin black, with large yellow to orange spots and/or bands. Yellow pattern varies among subspecies, although it is not entirely reliably for subspecies identification. Belly skin black or brownish. Females generally larger than males and possess relatively shorter extremities and tail. Male's cloaca much more swollen than female's cloaca.

Size: up to 250 mm, sometimes almost 300 mm.

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


View distribution map in BerkeleyMapper.
View Bd and Bsal data (446 records).
The species is distributed from the Iberian Peninsula to Iran and from North Africa to North Germany. The genus consists of variable forms, the taxonomy of which has not been revised as yet. Some of the former subspecies of Salamandra salamandra are now recognized as separate species and the separation of more species can be expected. Populations of S. s. salamandra from Turkey are genetically closely related to the S. s. infraimmaculata group. The species inhabits mainly deciduous and mixed, sometimes conifer forests. Populations inhabiting anthropogenic landscapes and unforested habitats can be considered, as a rule, as relicts of formerly forest dwellers. The spotted coloration of this salamander seems to play two roles: cryptic, when the spots on black background allow the animal to hide on the forest floor, where there are alternate spots of sun and shadow, and aposematic, where bright yellow spots indicate poisonous skin secretions.

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Over a large part of its range, S. salamandra seems to be not a rare species, but its abundance declines in many regions. In unwooded areas the species is generally rarer than in forests.

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
In historical perspective, the range seemed to be constricted, mainly due to deforestation. In some places (e.g., in Ukrainian Carpathians) declines of populations take place due to anthropogenic influences. 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
Habitat destruction, pollution, and collecting for commercial purposes (mainly pet trade) are the main threats for the populations. Destruction of forests and overcollecting cause the declines of some populations.

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Long-distance pesticides, toxins, and pollutants
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)

The systematics of the genus Salamandra is in progress. Some forms earlier recognized as subspecies of the species S. salamandra have acquired specific rank.

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).


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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.

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Written by Sergius L. Kuzmin (ipe51 AT, Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
First submitted 1999-10-06
Edited by Meredith J. Mahoney, updated by Ann T. Chang, Michelle Koo (2020-09-01)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2020 Salamandra salamandra: Fire Salamander <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 30, 2020.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 30 Sep 2020.

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