WHAT ARE SALAMANDERS?
What is the difference between a salamander and a lizard?
At first glance salamanders appear to be a type of lizard. However, this is not true. Salamanders are their own distinct group of animals belonging to the order Caudata. Even though they do superficially resemble lizards, there are several differences that separate the two. One visual cue is that lizards usually have external ear-openings and clawed toes. Salamanders lack such features.
Salamanders are also amphibians, while lizards are reptiles. The main differences between reptiles and amphibians are that reptiles are covered in dry scales or scutes, while amphibians have moist skins. Amphibians also produce eggs that are dependent for the most part on water and moisture, while reptiles have shelled-eggs that are terrestrially adapted. Most amphibians undergo a metamorphosis from juvenile water-breathing forms to adult air-breathing forms, reptiles do not.
Salamanders first appeared on Earth some 160 million years ago. Today, there are over 600 different species of salamanders found across North and South America, and in the temperate parts of Northern Africa, Asia and Europe. Salamanders are absent from the southern regions of these continents. There are no salamanders in Australia or Antarctica. Salamanders reach their greatest diversity in the Appalachian Mountains region.
What is the difference between a salamander and a newt?
Many individuals wonder what the difference is between a newt and a salamander. Newts are actually a type of salamander. The true newts belong to the subfamily Pleurodelinae of the family Salamandridae. It should be noted that salamanders from other families may also be referred to as newts, i.e. the Primorye Newt (Salamandrella tridactyl) from the family Hynobiidae. Newts have three metamorphoses throughout their life, an aquatic larva, a terrestrial juvenile stage called an eft, and an adult stage. Although newts are associated with being more aquatic than other salamanders, this is not always the case. Adult newts can either be fully aquatic or semi-aquatic. Semi-aquatic forms live primarily terrestrial existences, but make annual returns to the water to breed.
It should also be noted that the terms Newt and Salamander are sometimes used interchangeably or differently depending on what part of the world you are in.
It is important to verify what salamanders are, as they seem puzzling to many people. However, many people are intrigued by strange and wonderful creatures, and these attributes are another reason that salamanders should be protected. Find out how you can help