All species are divided into classifications based on their characteristics and other genetically similar species. The broadest form of classification is kingdom; from there the next tier of classification is phylum, which are grouped by similar body structure. After phylum, animals are broken down into class, order, family, genus and then species.
Salamanders belong to the animal kingdom (Animalia), along with all other multicellular animals that cannot conduct photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process that plants, algae and some bacterias use to make energy from sunlight. Animals must ingest their energy.
The presence of the salamander's spinal chord land them in the phylum Chordata. Chordata consists of all complex fish and mammals with a spinal cord. This means that humans are also chordates. There are four stages in development that all chordates share in common, however, some of these stages may only be present as an embryo. They are: pharyngeal slits, a dorsal nerve cord, a notocord, and a post-anal tail. Pharyngeal slits are a series of slits that connect the inside of the throat to the outside throat, in some animals these are used as gills. The dorsal nerve cord is what we commonly refer to as the spinal cord in humans. The notocord is the cartilage support of the nerve cord, and the post-anal tail is the extension of the spine from the body.
The phylum Chordata is divided into five classes: amphibians, birds, mammals, reptiles and fish. Salamanders belong to the amphibian class because they are cold-blooded and lack the ability to regulate their own body temperature internally.
Order & Family
Salamanders belong to the order Caudata, which means "tail." The order Caudata contains over 600 species of tailed amphibians which are divided into 9 families. These are: Amphiumidae, Ambystomatidae, Cryptobranchidae, Hynobiidae, Proteidae, Rhyacotritonidae, Salamandridae, Sirenidae and Plethodontidae.
Genus & Species
The Family Salamandridae has two subgroups. The first are the true salamanders and the second are the newts. This family has 21 genera which are home to 80 species found in North America, Europe and Asia. All species of Salamandridae produce a toxic chemical that they excrete from their skin when they feel threatened. The toxic secretions from salamanders in the genus Taricha have even been known to kill predators. Also, most species have a biphasic life meaning that they are born as tadpoles in water, but as they develop they become land dwellers.
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