Development & Aid, Environment, Tierramerica

Amphibians with Tails

Apr 22 2001 (IPS) - Salamanders are often confused with lizards, as their sinuous profile tends to evoke the idea of a reptile. But don't let yourself be fooled: they are definitely a part of the surprising and numerous family of beings with a ''double life'' – those who live in the water and on land – reflected in the Greek-based adjective amphibious.



There are some 300 varieties of salamanders, but all are defined by the name of their order: Caudata, ''with tail.'' Study of these creatures forms part of herpetology, which targets reptiles and amphibians, and their scientific classification encompasses 10 different families.

The Internet is not immune to the charm of salamanders, whose skins sport fantastic natural designs. There are numerous directories and links in cyberspace showing off the different varieties: tiger-stripes, spotted, marbled, or the common 'Salamandra salamandra,' known as the newt. There is also a great deal of information about another mysterious being that can be confused with a salamander: the 'axolotl' or the Ambystoma mexicanum.

What is the motive of this cyberspace dedication to salamanders? Beyond the frontiers of science, many members of the order Caudata are treasured as pets.

Salamanders are fascinating because of their colors, their strange shapes, and the incredible speed with which they eat. But also because they reflect an important part of the Earth's history.

Scientists affirm that salamanders are descendants of the first vertebrates to come out of the water when life was – from the perspective of today's humans – still being formed. And the oldest fossils of the Caudata date back 150 million years – the middle of the Jurassic period…

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