Lungless salamanders, like the one above, breathe through the mucous membrane in their mouth and throat and through their skin. Moisture is especially important to lungless salamanders, because their skin must be wet in order to absorb oxygen. These animals like to stay protected but may venture out when the air is very humid. I guess that is why we found him out on that drizzly day.
Northern two-lined salamander found not too far from my house. Isn’t it cute?
Here is an activity to get the kids outside. Take them on a fun salamander hunt. Your kids probably won’t need much convincing but you can get them excited by telling them a few cool facts about salamanders.
1. Salamanders can drop off their tails to escape predators. This is called tail autotomy. The disconnected tale wiggles around and provides a distraction so the salamander can escape.
2. Salamanders can grow back a missing tail! It can also re-grow a missing leg!!
3. Salamanders regularly shed the outer layer of their skin (the epidermis) as they grow, and then eat it.
4. The skin of salamanders secretes mucus, which helps keep the animal moist when not in the water.
5. Salamanders can secrete poison from glands in their skin in order to be an undesirable meal. (more about that below)
Where to look for salamanders
Because a salamander’s skin must stay moist, look for adult salamanders in places where the earth is damp such as: under leaves, under logs, or near a wetland (stream, pond, swamp, marsh). If you do look under logs, be sure to replace the log back the way you found it being careful not to squish any living organism in the process.
Because salamanders are nocturnal (which means they are active mostly at night), you might also try hunting at night.
Perhaps you have come across one while doing yard work, working in your garden or while hiking through the woods.
Most salamanders have four toes on their front legs and five on their rear legs. This guy has 5 toes on its back legs; they are just hard to see in this photo.
Be kind to these little critters:
Handling suggestions for salamanders
Make sure you wash your hands before and after touching a salamander (or any amphibian). Wash your hands beforehand to remove any moisturizing lotion, suntan lotion, insect repellent, soap residue, or toxins from other amphibians. Salamanders are very sensitive to such things.
Handling should be kept to a minimum. When I show salamanders to children, I like to let the salamander walk on my hand rather than me “holding it”. You don’t want to squeeze any part of its delicate body.
Salamanders need to be kept cool. Also, they shouldn’t be left out in the sun because their skin will dry out. Mist its skin as necessary.
Never hold a salamander by its tail; it can break off. Although it can grow it back, it’s better for it not to have to.
Always wash your hands after handling amphibians because they have glands in their skin that secrete chemicals. (Salamanders, frogs, toads and newts are amphibians.)
Some of these chemicals are very nasty tasting. Your dog or cat may have discovered this. (That guy just didn’t want to be eaten.)
Some chemicals may cause skin or eye irritation. Don’t take any chances, wash your hands.
Some may actually kill (the poison-dart frogs of Central America).
Among the native amphibians of the United States, the two amphibians of greatest concern are giant toads (also called cane toads, marine toads, aga toads; Bufo marinus)- Common in some parts of FL. and the western newts of the genus, Taricha (found on the west coast of the U.S.).
Proper hand washing after handling should also prevent any problems with infection from Salmonella (bacteria that makes you sick).
Has good advice on how to care for your temporary “pet” once you find it.
For more information presented in a kid friendly way, check out this website: