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salamander, an amphibian of the order Urodela, or Caudata. Salamanders have tails and small, weak limbs; superficially they resemble the unrelated lizards (which are reptiles), but they are easily distinguished by their lack of scales and claws, and by their moist, usually smooth skins. Salamanders are found in damp regions of the northern temperate zone and are most abundant in North America. Most are under 6 in. (15 cm) long, but the giant salamanders of China and Japan (genus Andrias) can reach a lengths of 5.9 (1.8 m) and 5 ft (1.5 m) respectively, and the greater siren (Siren lacertina) of the SE United States can reach 3 ft (91 cm). Most salamanders are terrestrial as adults, living near water or in wet vegetation, but some are aquatic and a few are arboreal, burrowing, or cave-dwelling. Most are nocturnal, and all avoid direct light. Salamanders are able to regenerate a lost limb or tail. They feed on small animals, such as insects, worms, and snails.

Most salamanders breed in water and are gregarious at breeding time, when there is usually a courtship display. In most species fertilization is internal. The male deposits sperm packets, which the female picks up with the cloaca; the sperm is then stored until fertilization takes place. The eggs, surrounded by gelatinous material, are usually laid in ponds or brooks, where they develop into aquatic larvae that can breathe by means of gills. A few salamanders breed on land, laying their eggs under rotting vegetation; the young pass through the gilled stage in the egg, emerging as miniature adults. Such strictly terrestrial forms are the red-backed salamander (Plethodon cinereus) and slimy salamander (P. glutinosus) of E United States and the slender salamander (Batrachoseps attenuatus) of the Pacific coast.

Most salamanders, including most that remain in an aquatic environment, go through a typical amphibian metamorphosis into air-breathing adults. Generally the adults have lungs, but in the large family of lungless salamanders (Plethodontidae) breathing occurs entirely through the skin and the lining of the throat. In a few salamanders growth occurs without metamorphosis, and the gilled, juvenile form is able to reproduce. This phenomenon (called neoteny) is found in the eellike sirens (family Sirenidae) of the S United States and N Mexico, in the mudpuppies (family Protidae), and in the Mexican axolotl. It may also occur in the Western varieties of the North American tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum) under certain environmental conditions. The newts are a large, widely distributed family of salamanders; North American species include the red-spotted newt, which goes through a terrestrial stage known as the red eft.

The North American blind salamanders (several genera in the family Plethodontidae) live in underground streams, caves, and wells in S United States. As adults they have whitish, translucent skin, which covers their eyes. The olm is a European blind salamander related to the mudpuppy. The giant salamander (Dicamptodon ensatus) of the NW United States grows to 12 in. (30 cm) in length. The hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) of E United States and the so-called Congo eel (Amphiuma means) are large aquatic species. The former, of the same family as the Chinese and Japanese giant salamanders, grows to 20 in. (50 cm); the latter, slender and eellike in appearance, with tiny legs, may reach 30 in. (75 cm).


There are over 200 salamander species, classified in approximately 60 genera and 8 families of the phylum Chordata, subphylum Vertebrata, class Amphibia, order Urodela (or Caudata).
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(vertebrate zoology)
Cryptobranchus alleganiensis. A large amphibian of the order Urodela which is the most primitive of the living salamanders, retaining some larval characteristics.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
References in periodicals archive ?
Population status of the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in Indiana.
Health and habitat quality assessment for the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) in Indiana, USA.
Histology of the reproductive organs of Cryptobranchus alleganiensis (Caudata: Cryptobranchidae) in Missouri.
Reproduction of the hellbender, Cryptobranchus allegheniensis, in Indiana.
The nests and nest site selection by Ozark hellbenders, Cryptobranchus allegheniensis bishopi Grobman.
Habitat differences affecting age class distributions of the hellbender salamander, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis.
I did not encounter the hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis), red salamander (Pseudotriton ruber), green salamander (Aneides aeneus), northern dusky salamander (Desmognathus fuscus) and the ravine salamander-complex.
The status and conservation of the eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis): directions for the future.
Hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis) Education Kit Illinois Natural Survey Champaign, IL 61820 www.inhs.uiuc.edu Kit includes life size model of a hellbender with a base and a hellbender booklet.
1971: Some Aspects of the Ecology of the Hellbender, Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis in a Pennsylvania Stream.
Winter Breeding of Cryptobranchus alleganiensis bishopi in Arkansas.
Prevalence of physical abnormalities in eastern hellbender (Cryptobranchus alleganiensis alleganiensis) populations of middle Tennessee.