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Salamanders constitute the order Urodela (or Caudata) within the class Amphibia.


The common name of Salamanders is applied to approximately 350 amphibian vertebrates with slender bodies, short legs, and long tails. The moist skin of the amphibians limits them to habitats either near water or under some protection on moist ground, usually in a forest. Some species are aquatic throughout life, some take to the water intermittently, and some are entirely terrestrial as adults. Salamanders superficially resemble lizards, but are easily distinguished by their lack of scales.

Species of salamanders are numerous and found in most moist or aqueous habitats in the northern hemisphere. Most are small but some reach up to a foot in length. They live in brooks and ponds and other moist locations. Northern America has the hellbender and the mudpuppy[?] which can reach a foot. Japan has the giant salamander, which reaches 3 feet.

Salamanders are generally restricted to the northern hemisphere, with the exception of a few species in the northernmost part of South America.


There are ten families belonging to the order Urodela:

  1. Hynobiidae[?]
  2. Cryptobranchidae (hellbenders)
  3. Dicamptodontidae (Pacific giant salamanders)
  4. Rhyacotritonidae (torrent salamanders[?])
  5. Ambystomatidae (mole salamanders)
  6. Salamandridae (true salamanders)
  7. Amphiumidae (amphiumas)
  8. Proteidae (mudpuppies[?])
  9. Plethodontidae (lungless salamanders[?])
  10. Sirenidae (sirens[?])


The mythical salamander resembles the real salamander somewhat in appearance, but makes its home in fires, the hotter the better. Early travellers to China were shown garments which, or so they were told, had been woven of wool from the salamander: the cloth was completely unharmed by fire. The garments had actually been woven from asbestos.

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