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Newts and European Salamanders: Salamandridae - Physical Characteristics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansNewts and European Salamanders: Salamandridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Smooth Newt (triturus Vulgaris): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, EUROPEAN SALAMANDERS NEWTS AND PEOPLE


Newts and European salamanders have long, slender bodies, long tails, sturdy legs, and poisonous skin. Some species have large skin glands that stick out from the head. Newts that have just gone through metamorphosis and begun their life on land are called efts. Metamorphosis (MEH-tuh-MORE-feh-sis) is the process by which some animals change body form before becoming adults. Newts and European salamanders are 3 to 14 inches (7 to 35 centimeters) long. They have four toes on their front legs and four or five toes on their hind legs. These salamanders do not have the grooves on the sides of their body that many other salamanders have. Efts and adults have lungs; larvae have external gills that stick up behind their heads. Larvae (LAR-vee) are animals in an early stage that change body form in metamorphosis. Gills are organs for obtaining oxygen from water. Many newts and European salamanders develop back body and tail fins when they enter the water in the breeding season.

All newts and European salamanders release substances from their skin that are poisonous or bad-tasting to predators. Many of the salamanders that make these poisons are brightly colored. The skin of most species of newts and European salamanders is rough, except during the water-dwelling phase. In the water, the skin becomes smooth, thin, and slimy. In the water, salamanders breathe through their skin, meaning they absorb oxygen directly from the water. In the water-dwelling phase, newts and European salamanders shed their skin frequently. Some newts eat the shed skin.

Because they look for food underwater, newts and European salamanders have eyes that are shaped for seeing prey, and their mouth is shaped for sucking in prey. In the water-dwelling phase, newts have organs in the skin that make up a system called the lateral (LAT-uhr-uhl) line. With these organs the newt feels tiny water currents and thus can detect moving prey, even in the dark and in muddy water.

Some keep the body form of larvae even though they become adults and can reproduce. These adults do not make the move to land and remain in water throughout life.

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