Fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra (LINNAEUS, 1758)



In mythology the Salamander is depicted as a creature with a lizard-like form, ascribed an affinity for elemental fire. Anyone how sees the fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra (Linnaeus 1758), will never forget its appearance. S. salamandra (see movie) is a large, stocky salamander. The tail is slightly shorter than the body and cylindrical in shape. The skin of adult fire salamanders is smooth, shiny black, with large, irregular yellow-orange spots.

Life History

Males and females are very similar in appearance except during the breeding season, when males have a swollen gland around the vent. The courtship (see movie), the male rubs the female with his chin, and the mating take place on land. The male crawls beneath the female and grasps her forelimbs with his own. Then he deposits a small packet of sperm, the spermatophore, and female lowers her cloaca over the spermatophore and draws it in. The eggs are fertilized and develop internally. The female gives birth to 20 to 40 gilled larvae measuring 2.5 to 3 cm. The larval stage varies between 2 to 5 months depending on temperature. The juveniles measure between 5 to 7 cm and have internal organs adapted to terrestrial life. The fire salamanders are nocturnal animals, the diurnal activity depending on air temperature and humidity. One can see the fire salamanders during the daylight when it rains after a long period of drought. The fire salamanders are long-lived species, they can exceed 20 years in the wild and in captivity are known to live over 50 years.

Distribution (Cogălniceanu et al. 2000; Cogălniceanu et al. 2013; 2016)

The fire salamander is distributed in most of the southern and central Europe. In our country it is widespread in mountains regions, from 200 m up to an altitude of 1800 m asl. Sporadic observations are reported from caves, during reproduction or hibernation (Manenti et al. 2009; Manenti et al. 2011; Ianc et al. 2012; Balogova and Uhrin 2014).

salamader distribution


The fire salamander is common in Romania but at European Union level is a species of community interest whose conservation requires the designation of special areas of conservation (Annex IV(b) of the Habitats Directive 92/43/EEC and Appendix III of the Bern Convention). The main threats include habitat loss and fragmentation by new roads, clear-cutting of forests and pollution of breeding sites by agochemicals. Chytridiomycosis is a potential threat to the species and has been reported in some populations in Spain.

Although the species is considered not threatened in all of Europe, many populations have been reported to suffer major declines (e.g., in Spain and The Netherlands). In Romania, the species is considered vulnerable (Red Book of Vertebrates of Romania; Iftimie, 2005).

Support conservation efforts by reporting your observations on fire salamanders at Web-salamandra or by e-mail. Reports of crushed animals and/or sheltered in subterranean habitats (e.g., caves, tunnels, mines, quarries, cellars) are also very useful.


The fire salamanders prefer deciduous forest, where they spend the day hidden in the fallen leaves, borrows, mossy tree trunks, crack of rocks and caves. In urban areas they use as shelters during the day or winter fissures in the stone walls, tunnels and damp basements. Larvae develop in streams, more rarely in ponds. In the streams they need small pools, with low current, oxygenated water and shelters under rocks and fallen leaves. In the urban areas, gardens between buildings can supply the water and an adequate shelter for the development of the larvae.


S. salamandra - adult
S. salamandra - adult
S. salamandra - larval salamander
S. salamandra - larval salamander - Gaura cu Musca Cave