AskDefine | Define salamander

Dictionary Definition

salamander

Noun

1 any of various typically terrestrial amphibians that resemble lizards and that return to water only to breed
2 reptilian creature supposed to live in fire
3 fire iron consisting of a metal rod with a handle; used to stir a fire [syn: poker, stove poker, fire hook]

User Contributed Dictionary

English

Etymology

From Old French salamandre, from Latin salamandra, from Greek σαλαμάνδρα. Originating from (samandar): sām = fire, andarūn = within, as it was thought to be able to walk through fire.

Pronunciation

  • /ˈsæləˌmændə/ (UK) or /ˈsæləˌmændɚ/ (US)
  • /"s

Extensive Definition

Salamander (orig. from Persian: sām, "fire", and andarūn, "within") is the common name for a group of approximately 500 species of amphibians typically characterized by slender bodies, short legs, and long tails. They have four front toes and their hind legs have five. Their moist skin usually makes them reliant on habitats in or near water or under some protection on moist ground, often in a swamp. Some salamander species are aquatic throughout life, some take to the water intermittently, and some are entirely terrestrial as adults. They lay eggs in water. Uniquely among vertebrates, they are capable of regenerating lost limbs, as well as other body parts, in a process known as ecdysis.
Respiration differs among the different species of salamanders. In those that lack lungs, respiration is done through the gills as water passes over the gill slits. Some salamanders that are terrestrial have lungs that are used in respiration similar to that in mammals. However, some terrestrial species lack both lungs and gills and perform gas exchange through their skin, a process known as valarian respiration in which the capillary beds are spread throughout the epidermis, including inside the mouth.
Hunting is yet another unique aspect of salamanders. Muscles surrounding the hyoid bone contract to create pressure and actually "shoot" the hyoid bone out of the mouth along with the tongue. The tip of the tongue is composed of mucus which creates a sticky end to which the prey is captured. Muscles in the pelvic region are used in order to reel the tongue and the hyoid back to its original position.
Salamanders split off from the other amphibians during the Mid to Late Permian, and initially were similar to modern members of the Cryptobranchoidea. Any resemblance to lizards is the result of convergence of the basic tetrapod body plan, as they are no more closely related to lizards than they are to mammals. Their nearest relatives are the frogs and toads, within Batrachia.

Habitat

Species of salamanders are numerous and found in most moist or arid habitats in the northern hemisphere. The salamander is the largest amphibian in the world. They usually live in or near brooks,creeks,ponds and other moist locations. Many are relatively small, but there are definite exceptions. North America hosts the hellbender, the eastern tiger salamander, and the mudpuppy which can reach the length of a foot (30 cm) or more. In Japan and China the giant salamander is found, which reaches and weighs up to 30 kilograms.. There are ten families belonging to the order Urodela, divided into three suborders:

Development

The life history of salamanders is similar to other amphibians such as frogs. The life cycle begins with an egg stage, usually laid the previous winter in a pond. A larval stage follows in which the organism is legless and fully aquatic. The salamander possesses gills at this point. Some species (such as Dunn's Salamander (Plethodon dunni)) of salamander exhibit no larval stage. Neoteny has been observed in all salamander families, in which an individual may retain gills into sexual maturity. This may be universally possible in all salamander species. More commonly, however, metamorphosis continues with the loss of gills, the growth of legs, and the capability of the animal to function terrestrially.

Mythology

Numerous legends have developed around the salamander over the centuries, many related to fire. This connection likely originates from the tendency of many salamanders to dwell inside rotting logs. When placed into a fire, the salamander would attempt to escape from the log, lending to the belief that salamanders were created from flames - a belief that gave the creature its name.
Associations of the salamander with fire appear in the Talmud and the Hadith, as well as in the writings of Conrad Lycosthenes, Benvenuto Cellini, Ray Bradbury, David Weber, Paracelsus and Leonardo da Vinci.

Popular culture

See Newts in Popular culture
See Salamander (legendary creature) in popular culture. Salamanders as creatures with an affinity for fire belong in that article. This section covers the natural creatures.

Notes

References

salamander in Arabic: سلمندر
salamander in Bulgarian: Опашати земноводни
salamander in Danish: Halepadder
salamander in German: Schwanzlurche
salamander in Modern Greek (1453-): Σαλαμάνδρα
salamander in Spanish: Salamandra salamandra
salamander in Esperanto: Salamandro
salamander in Persian: سمندر
salamander in French: Urodèle
salamander in Korean: 도롱뇽목
salamander in Italian: Urodela
salamander in Hebrew: בעלי זנב
salamander in Lithuanian: Uodeguotieji varliagyviai
salamander in Hungarian: Farkos kétéltűek
salamander in Malay (macrolanguage): Urodela
salamander in Dutch: Salamanders
salamander in Japanese: 有尾目
salamander in Norwegian: Salamandere
salamander in Occitan (post 1500): Urodela
salamander in Polish: Płazy ogoniaste
salamander in Portuguese: Caudados
salamander in Russian: Хвостатые земноводные
salamander in Simple English: Salamander
salamander in Slovenian: Repati krkoni
salamander in Finnish: Salamanterit
salamander in Swedish: Stjärtgroddjur
salamander in Turkish: Semender
salamander in Ukrainian: Саламандра
salamander in Walloon: Ecawêyès glumiantès biesses
salamander in Chinese: 有尾目

Synonyms, Antonyms and Related Words

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