How poisonous are salamanders

University of Applied Sciences Bremen - University of Applied Sciences

Fire Salamander - Don't Burn Your Fingers!

A student contribution by Leon Andrea Heinze, Manuel Jahn and Arne Menze. biology The fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra), which was first described by Linnaeus in 1758, can be classified in the class of amphibians (Amphibia). It belongs to the order of the caudata and in the family of the real salamanders (Salamandridae). There are a total of thirteen subspecies of the fire salamander, with the subspecies S. salamandra salamandra and S. salamandra terestris only two occurring in Germany. The body size of the fire salamander is approx. 14 cm to 24 cm, making them one of the largest native tailed amphibians. They are usually glossy black with a yellow-orange pattern of spots / stripes. A completely black coloration or an albinotic appearance is also rare. Like a fingerprint, the pattern of spots is characteristic of each individual animal. Warts can be seen on the cross-furrowed side of the body. The ear glands and the glandular pores, which are located on the head and back, are noticeable; a skin secretion is secreted here. The fire salamander occurs in large parts of western, central, southern and southeastern Europe. In Germany it occurs less and less in the north and is completely absent in the northeast. The Elbe forms a kind of border. Moist mixed deciduous forests in hilly and mountainous regions form the habitat of the fire salamanders. Clean and cool small bodies of water with constant temperatures are important for its life cycle. He also needs day hiding places, which he can find in crevices or tree stumps, for example. The adult individuals of Salamandra salamandra are predominantly nocturnal animals. The fire salamander is therefore very rarely found during the day. The animals generally prefer a relative humidity of over 85%. This also makes it clear why the nocturnal animals leave their day hiding places after warm rain showers and can also be found during the day. The fire salamander also prefers temperatures between 3 and 12 ┬░ C and low air movements. The animals are mainly active between the middle of March and the end of November, whereby the activity of the animals depends on the weather. It is therefore not uncommon for the salamander to become active as early as February in warmer weather conditions. From November the salamanders move into their underground winter quarters, which are similar to the day quarters. The diet of the adult animals mainly includes earthworms, snails and soil arthropods (woodlice, spiders, insects). In the larval stage, they feed on small invertebrates such as river fleas. The animals reproduce between March and September when it rains, with the larvae being weaned by the female between April and May. The animals reach sexual maturity at the age of 5 years and can reach an age of up to 20 years. In contrast to most other amphibians, the mating of the fire salamanders takes place on land. The salamanders follow a specific mating ritual in which the male makes sideways undulating movements. After the sideways wave movements, the male crawls under the female and the female takes up the spermatophore. After ingestion, the seeds contained in the seed package can be preserved in the female's body for a total of up to 2 years. If larvae are weaned, a female can give birth to up to 80 fully developed larvae in shallow water areas. The larvae then leave the water with a size of 5 to 6 cm in the period between July and September, whereby they can also overwinter in the water. Hazard potential Despite its seemingly dangerous name, the fire salamander is a rather harmless native forest dweller. Due to its humid habitats, the animal is exposed to a high risk of fungal and bacterial infestation. To counteract this, the fire salamander secretes a skin secretion via its glands on the back, but mainly via its head glands. In addition to combating fungi and bacteria, the secretion also serves to protect against potential predators such as hedgehogs or birds. The skin secretion is a milky-white, slimy liquid and contains the poison salamandrin, which is composed of various organic compounds. These act on the central nervous system and influence the transport of sodium into the nerve cells. The effect of the components of the salamandrin depends on the amount and the concentration and can be regulated by the fire salamander by actively or passively excreting the skin secretion. Should a potential predator, despite the conspicuous warning color of the fire salamander, attempt to capture the animal, this leads to increased excretion of the skin secretion, in extreme cases the salamander can even spray its secretion up to 1 meter. Contact with the skin secretion of the fire salamander can lead to vomiting, cramps, paralysis of the muscles and even breathing difficulties in the attacker. Media articles about encounters between fire salamanders and pets or even small children, which can have similar consequences, lead to an overestimation of the animal's hazard potential. Contact with a healthy, adult person can occasionally cause irritation and swelling of the skin. Danger The fire salamander has almost no natural animal predators. The main risk is from strong anthropogenic influences such as the pollution and denaturation of the larval waters. Intensive deforestation in the stream catchment areas results in extreme runoff in the streams. The forest as a reservoir for precipitation is lacking. Arable use also leads to the flushing and deposition of fine material at the bottom of the streams. Another danger for the larval waters is the acidification of the brooks through industrialization. For the fire salamander, forestry also harbors dangers. In the past, large areas of deciduous and mixed forests were replaced by pure coniferous crops, which severely impaired the natural living conditions of the salamander. The high acid content of the conifers also leads to a low level of vegetation on the ground and, contrary to the leaves, the needles in the streams are not decomposed by microorganisms. Fishery management poses a threat to the salamander when naturally fish-free streams are artificially stocked with fish. Or when the prevailing species composition of natural fish stocks is artificially changed. Increasing road traffic in the salamander's habitats also represents an increasing decimation factor for local salamander populations. In Germany, Salamandra salamandra occurs in 11 federal states, whereby the species is considered safe in only 3 federal states according to the Red List. The federal states in which the salamander is not endangered are Brandenburg, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saarland. The fire salamander is considered endangered in Baden-W├╝rttemberg, Bavaria, Saxony-Anhalt and Thuringia. In Saxony and Hesse the fire salamander is endangered and in Hamburg it is already extinct. swell Banner image:

Fire salamander, photo: Michael Linnenbach. (* '' Salamandra salamandra '' - de: Feuersalamander, banded * Photo: M. Linnenbach * from de.wikipedia []

Text sources:

URL3: Pflanzen/amphibienundreptilien/portrait/artenportraits/10599.html

MEBS, D., POGADA, W. (2005): Variability of alkaloids in the skin secretion of the European fire salamander (Salamandra salamadra terrestris), Center for Forensic Medicine, University of Frankfurt; Frankfurt, Germany. 4 pp. (Received October 27, 2004; Accepted January 10, 2005. Available online February 16, 2005.)