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Salamanders, Newts, Sirens, and Other Curious Caudates

Marie studied at Michigan State University four years in English (creative writing). She writes content, poetry, and stories.

A shy salamander nestled among fallen oak leaves in Michigan.

A shy salamander nestled among fallen oak leaves in Michigan.

What are salamanders?

Salamanders are lizard-like amphibians classified in the order Caudata, containing 10 families and 740 species, among which are not only salamanders but newts, hellbenders, olms, sirens, mud puppies, and the lungless variety. Generally, the creatures have two or four legs and moist, smooth skin.

Where do salamanders live?

Water is essential to a salamander’s survival, so shady areas around ponds, lakes, and streams are where you are most likely to find one. Though the Northern Hemisphere is the home to most species, you can also find them in the Amazon Basin, their only natural habitat in the Southern Hemisphere.

10 Families of the Order Caudata

The family classification is based on information of the 2019 AmphibiaWeb project sponsored by the University of California at Berkeley.

Scientific Family NameCommon Name(s)

Ambystomatidae

mole salamander

Amphiumidae

Congo eel

Cryptobranchidae

Asiatic giant salamander and hellbender

Dicamptodontidae

giant salamander

Hynobiidae

Asiatic salamander

Plethodontidae

lungless salamander

Proteidae

olm and mud puppy

Salamandridae

salamander and newt

Sirenidae

siren and dwarf siren

Rhyacotritonidae

torrent salamander

The Gestation of an Alpine Newt

Watch this incredible time-lapsed video by Jan van IJken,a photographer and filmmaker from the Netherlands, showing how an Alpine newt's egg transforms through the stages of gestation.

Salamander: Originally a reptile inhabiting fire; later, an anthropomorphous immortal, but still a pyrophile. Salamanders are now believed to be extinct, the last one of which we have an account having been seen in Carcassonne by the Abbe Belloc, who exorcised it with a bucket of holy water.

— Ambrose Pierce, American Writer (1842-1914)

Salamander Folklore and Metaphysics

In folklore and metaphysics, the salamander is commonly associated with the fire element. The reason for the practice goes back to the salamander's environment, the woods. Very often, a salamander will house itself in a wood pile. Since the animal tends to be shy and tenacious, it very often stays with the fireplace wood until the timber is lit. At that point, the salamander can be seen running out of the fire. So, the elemental kingdom designation for fire is "salamander," sometimes referred to as "the fiery salamanders." Other names for this element are "the great dragons" and "phoenixes."

In the Teachings of the Ascended Masters, chelas (devotees) are asked to pray fervently in petition to the salamanders as the fire element when there is an uncontrolled forest fire. The prayer or chant must be with full voice and repeated until the fire has been controlled and extinguished. This endeavor works best as a group effort.

A Prayer to Extinguish Uncontrolled Fire

In the name I AM THAT I AM, my I AM Presence and Higher Self, I call to the hierarchs of the fire element, Oromasis and Diana, to take command of the fiery salamanders and contain all uncontrolled, destructive fires. I command the elementals to bring such fires under God-control. And I ask that the salamanders be repolarized and realigned with God’s holy will. According to the will of God, let it be done.

Commentary

During my stay on the natal family farm in Michigan, my brother Jim had asked me if I had seen any salamanders. He commented that he saw one in the firewood and that it had run across the basement floor, but he couldn't find where it had gone. I never saw that particular salamander.

Several days later, while walking in the woods, I happened to stop by my favorite oak tree, now only half of what I remembered from childhood because the tree had been struck by lightning and lost its western-most growth, originally two oaks that had grown into one. I sat at the base of the oak to simply enjoy the clean air and reflect on the forest sounds. Looking down, I noticed a tiny tail sticking out beneath one of the oak leaves. I carefully moved the leaf.

There it was. A little salamander, so small, sleek, and demure. I had to capture the image on my cell phone in order show it to my brother. Was it the same kind of salamander? An image of a pink one that I had held briefly in my hands as a young child came to mind. This one was not pink but brown.

Later, when seeing the picture, my brother confirmed that the salamander was the same kind as the one he had seen scurrying out from the firewood.

I held onto that cell phone picture a long time before attempting to write this article. There is much more that could be written and said. Salamanders are amazing creatures in their own right.

Recommended Reading

Mazer, Anne; The Salamander Room (Dragonfly Books, 1994) - a children's picture book about a young boy creating a woodland paradise in his room for his pet salamander (Note: The link takes you to a YouTube read-aloud video.)

Mitchell, J. & Gibbons, W.; Salamanders of the Southeast (Wormsloe Foundation, 2010) - a comprehensive, fun-to-read paperback guide compiled by two ecologists covering 102 species

Nelson, Robert; Life Cycles: Salamanders (First Step Nonfiction, 2009) - an illustrated paperback about the animal's life cycle, suitable for children

Acknowledgment

Prayer for the Salamanders (to Extinguish Uncontrolled Fire, abridged and paraphrased): Prophet, Elizabeth Clare; Is Mother Nature Mad? "How to Work with Nature Spirits to Mitigate Natural Disasters" (Pocket Guides to Practical Spirituality) (p. 96). Summit University Press. Kindle Edition. 2008

© 2020 Marie Flint

Comments

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on November 11, 2020:

Thank you for reading and commenting, Eric. I truly appreciate your and your boy's interest!

Eric Dierker from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A. on November 10, 2020:

Really cool. My boy is going to love this one. Growing up we used to catch them for fun.

Marie Flint (author) from Jacksonville, FL USA on November 02, 2020:

I think children are fascinated with nature's creatures, Denise. I remember bringing a clam home from Lake Huron's beach and placing the animal in a tub of water. I made an effort to make the clam comfortable by placing some sand in the bottom of the tub first before filling it with several inches of water. The tub was one of those galvanized steel ones big enough for a six-year-old to take a bath in.

Later, I added a small piece of bacon so the clam would have something to absorb for nourishment.

I was overjoyed when, several hours later, I witnessed that the clam had opened its shell and had extended its pink body, looking much like a bulbous tongue, to explore. I thought it must be happy.

After a day or two, I did take the clam back to its natural environment where I had found it. I wanted it to have the expanse of the lake to live and not be confined by my tub.

The whole experience was a fun one for me. Your sharing how you captured the blue salamander and gave it a home in the terrarium reminded me of my clam-for-a-day,

Thank you for reading and commenting!

Denise McGill from Fresno CA on November 01, 2020:

What a great story. It's always best when you have personal experience with a creature rather than just quoting facts and figures. When I was a girl we would camp overnight at a lake to water ski all weekend. One morning I awoke to see a blue-bellied salamander staring me in the face from the side of the tent. It was a beautiful creature. It was a greenish-grey with the most striking color of blue for the belly. I took it home which was a mistake because it wasn't as humid at home and the little guy escaped from the aquarium I had him in and ran away. What a lovely memory. I hadn't thought of him in many years. Thanks for that.

Blessings,

Denise

John Hansen from Queensland Australia on October 30, 2020:

Thank you for sharing this interesting article and story about the salamander, Marie. What interesting creatures. The time lapse video was good too. (Oh, the poem about Manatees you wanted to read is in Poems From the Porch 47.)

Pamela Oglesby from Sunny Florida on October 30, 2020:

This is an interesting article. It is nice that you saw one by the oak tree. I enjoyed watching your video as well. Thank for this information, Marie.