How to Identify Salamander Types


Salamanders are small amphibians that look like lizards but are not a part of the reptile family. They do not have scales, their skin is moist and soft and they have long tails. There are three main types of salamanders: totally aquatic, semiaquatic, and totally terrestrial. Some of the terrestrial salamanders are arboreal (living in trees). Salamanders are beneficial to the garden as they eat insects and various invertebrates. You will be able to distinguish the different types of salamanders by observing where they live.

Things You'll Need

  • Digital camera
  • Computer
  • Images of salamanders

Collecting Images and Analyzing Traits

  • Take pictures of different salamanders. Marshy areas and places close to water are good places to look for salamanders. View the pictures on the computer. Observing the salamander's movements and daily habits will tell you what type of salamander it is. If you are unable to find salamanders to take photos of, look at images via an image search on the Internet.

  • The salamander will be one of three types. Totally aquatic salamanders are born and live their entire lives in the water. As hatchlings they look like tadpoles and have external gills. Adult aquatic salamanders may develop internal lungs or retain their external gills. Some aquatic salamanders develop four legs and others have only front legs. Aquatic salamanders are the only salamanders that may have two legs.

  • The second type of salamander is semiaquatic. These salamanders are distinguished by their habits. They live primarily on land. They hibernate during the winter and enter the water during breeding season. After they mate and lay eggs, they return to land. These salamanders are born in the water with gills and develop lungs as they move onto land.

  • The third type of salamander you may encounter is the totally terrestrial salamander. These salamanders live their whole lives on land but close to water. They lay their legs on land under moist leaves or damp spaces under rocks. These salamanders never have gills and may breath through their skin or sac-like lungs.

Tips & Warnings

  • Different salamanders live in various areas of the country. When you travel, you will be able to add new salamanders to those you can identify.
  • Do not attempt to pick up salamanders. While they are basically harmless, they can produce a powerful bite.


  • Photo Credit Hemera Technologies/ Images
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