Salamanders are very secretive creatures. Due to this, several myths and legends have arisen about them over the centuries. Many ancient people believed that salamanders were fireproof and so cold-blooded that their bodies could extinguish the flames themselves. However, most of these legends are untrue.
Salamanders are not fireproof and can not withstand fire. Being amphibians, they are very vulnerable to heat and other temperature extremes.
The myth of fireproof salamanders arose due to their habit of hibernating in moist logs. When these logs were thrown into fires, the salamanders would wake up and emerge from the burning wood. This gave rise to their association with fire, and the belief that they were fireproof.
How the Myth of the Fireproof Salamander Arose
According to legend, in the first century CE, a Roman naturalist by the name of Pliny the Elder threw a salamander into a fire. He did this to see whether or not the salamander would survive the flames. Unfortunately, the salamander didn’t survive.
However, this did not stop the myth of fireproof salamanders from persisting thousands of years later.
The reason this myth persisted is most likely due to the real behavior of salamanders. Being amphibians, salamanders need to keep their skin moist and prevent it from drying out. This makes them hide in damp logs or stacks of wood kept outdoors.
When people would use this wood to make fires, the salamanders hiding inside would wake up and escape the flames. Seeing many salamanders emerge from burning wood convinced people that they had been birthed by the flames.
Some people even claimed to have seen salamanders emerge from the fireplace, unharmed by the fire.
Though such salamander encounters are rare these days, they were much more common back in the day when wood was a major source of heating. Such salamander encounters kept on happening over and over again, and the legend of the fireproof salamanders lived on.
Can a Salamander Survive a Fire?
Salamanders are semi-aquatic creatures, which means they live both in water and on land. This enables them to avoid wildfires that would kill other animals by hiding in the water.
Some salamanders, also thrive in conditions immediately after a wildfire, when there is loose debris all over the forest floor.
Ancient people did not know this, so they attributed their ability to survive wildfires to their “fireproof skin”, so this contributed to the belief that salamanders were immune to fire.
Do Salamanders Like Hot or Cold Temperatures?
Salamanders are ectothermic (cold-blooded) animals, meaning they rely on the environment to regulate their body temperature.
This makes them very vulnerable to temperature extremes. If the temperature rises and a salamander can not move to a cool area, it can overheat and be killed or injured. If the temperatures drop and remain cold for extended periods, most salamanders can freeze to death.
Other Mythical Abilities Salamanders Were Associated With
Apart from their ability to withstand fire, salamanders also had other myths surrounding them.
It was said that salamanders were so poisonous that a single salamander falling into a well, would poison the water and anyone who drank from that well would die.
In addition, it was believed that salamanders did not have digestive organs, and had saliva that destroyed human hair. Fortunately, non of these myths are true, salamanders are just animals, like any other.
Cool Abilities Salamanders Really Have
While many of the myths and legends associated with salamanders are false, salamanders do have some cool abilities that are actually real.
For one, they can regrow entire limbs, damaged parts of major organs, and even their brain! This healing capability comes from their unique immune systems and is unmatched anywhere else in the animal world. Imagine humans being able to regrow amputated legs or arms. Well, salamanders can!
Their unique capabilities have gotten a lot of interest from scientists who are studying them with the hope of being able to use this knowledge to improve healthcare.
In the past, it was thought that only animals like Jellyfish have this ability. But, recent studies have shown this ability is also present in salamanders.
Frequently Asked Questions:
Question: What Are Baby Salamanders Called?
Answer: Baby salamanders are called nymphs, or more specifically, “salamander nymphs”. These nymphs look very similar to frog tadpoles and have feathery gills that help them breathe underwater.
As they grow, they develop lungs and the gills are slowly absorbed into the head. When they have grown into their recognizable adult form, they leave the water for a life on land.
Question: Is It Legal to Own a Salamander?
Answer: Many salamander species are endangered. For this reason, some states in the US have laws that make it illegal to own certain salamander species. Be sure to check the laws of your specific area if you intend to keep one of these amphibians as a pet.
Salamanders are very elusive creatures. For this reason, many myths and legends arose about them. Most of these myths are untrue, however, salamanders do have some unique abilities that are real.