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a family of tailed amphibians. The body is extremely elongated, the limbs are weak, and the tail is bordered with a fold of skin. The external gills are retained throughout the animal’s life. The lungs are long and have smooth walls. The eyes are covered with skin.
There are two genera, Proteus (with one species) and Necturus. The olm (P. anguinus) has a body length reaching 28 cm. The front legs have three toes, and the hind legs two. The eyes are noticeable only on the young animals. The skin is un-pigmented, but the translucent tissues and the blood vessels cause the body to vary in color from pale pink to lilac. The olm is common in western Yugoslavia, where it inhabits subterranean waters and feeds on various invertebrates. Under natural conditions it is viviparous, but under laboratory conditions, when the temperature of the surrounding environment is above 15°C, it lays eggs.
The genus Necturus includes five species, commonly known as mud puppies. The animals are found in the eastern United States and in southern Canada. The front and hind legs have four toes each. The eyes are very small and are noticeable on both the young and the adults. N. maculosus, which reaches a length of 36 cm, is the best-known species. The upper side of the body has black spots rimmed with yellow on a gray or brown background; the under side is light gray or red. Mud puppies inhabit freshwaters and reproduce by laying eggs.
I. S. DAREVSKIJ