Added 10 August 2003. Last updated 24 September 2004: added links to Mertensiella page.

A Brief Look
at the



The Salamandridae are not a particularly large family among the Caudata, including about 60 or so species. However, many of the species are among the best known of tailed amphibians, especially in Europe where many people will instantly recognise a Triturus species or the Fire Salamander.

Caudata in general are confined to the northern hemisphere, a trend well borne out by this family which has most of its representatives in the cool to cold climates of Europe and Asia, plus two genera in North America. However, some are found as far south as North Africa, California and Hong Kong. Generally, however, most prefer the cool and dampness of the more northerly latitudes.

Two groups are informally recognised within the family: the "true salamanders" (Chioglossa, Mertensiella and Salamandra), and the "true newts" (all the rest) - see the Tree of Life entry. As a rule, the salamanders are more terrestrial than the newts, most if not all of whom must return to the water for some part of the year to breed. The skins of both newts and salamanders are toxic to varying degrees: Taricha newts can be lethal if swallowed by humans (a foolish practice), while Fire Salamanders have the additional ability to fire very unpleasant fluid from their glands into a predator's mouth. Coupled with this, many of the species have aposematic colouring (bright coloration to warn of their poisonous nature), at least on the belly.

Chioglossa, Golden-Striped Salamander Cynops, Fire-Bellied Newts Echinotriton, Spiny Newts
Euproctes, Brook Salamanders Mertensiella, Lycian and Caucasian Salamanders Neurergus, Spotted Newts
Notopthalmus , Eastern Newts Pachytriton, Paddle-Tailed Newts Paramesotriton, Warty Newts
Pleurodeles, Sharp-Ribbed Newts Salamandra, Salamanders Salamandrina, Spectacled Salamander
Taricha, Western Newts Triturus, European Newts Tylotriton, Crocodile Newts

Genus Common Name No. of species Distribution Notes
Chioglossa Golden-Striped Salamander 1 NW Iberia  
Cynops Fire-Bellied Newts 7 China and Japan  
Echinotriton Spiny Newts  3 China and Taiwan  
Euproctus Brook Salamanders 3 Europe (Pyrenees, Sardinia and Corsica)  
Mertensiella   2 Europe (SE Aegean Islands, SW Turkey) and Caucasus  
Neurergus Spotted Newts  4 Turkey, Iran and Iraq  
Notopthalmus Eastern Newts 3 Canada, US, Mexico  
Pachytriton Paddle-Tailed Newts 2 China  
Paramesotriton Warty Newts 7 China inc. Hong Kong, Vietnam and Laos  
Pleurodeles Sharp-Ribbed Newts 2 Iberia and N Africa  
Salamandra Salamanders  7 Europe, N Africa and Asia Minor The famous Fire Salamanders
Salamandrina Spectacled Salamander 1 Italy  
Taricha Western Newts  3 W North America  
Triturus European Newts  12 Europe  
Tylotriton Crocodile Newts  5 China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and Laos  

Bibliography - Salamandridae

There seems to be no one single work (at least outside academic circles) dealing with the family Salamandridae in its entirety. However, there is plenty of information both in print and on the newt on the individual species and genera, both natural history and captive husbandry.

Index of newt- and salamander-related articles from herpetological magazines.

European Newts and Salamanders

Keeping and Breeding Amphibians, Chris Mattison, Blandford Press. Good introduction to the subject.

The Proper Care of Amphibians, John Coborn, TFH, 1992. Although I have been often critical of Coborn's books in the past - some, notably on lizards, have contained erroneous information - this is not a bad one. It is very useful for an oversight of all the amphibian families and contains some information on many species which are rarely seen in captivity.

Studies on Chinese Salamanders, Er-mi Zhao, Qi-xiong Hu, Yao-min Jiang and Yu-hua Yang, SSAR, Ohio, 1988 (Contributions to Herpetology series)

Reptiles and Amphibians, Vaclav Lanka and Zbysek Vit, Hamlyn Colour Guide, Prague, 1985. Now somewhat out-of-date, but nice colour plates and a good overview.

Die Amphibien Europas, Andreas and Christel Nöllert, Franckh-Kosmos, Stuttgart, 1992. Details of all the species.

Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe, E N Arnold, J A Burton, D W Ovenden, 1978 (Collins Field Guide). Good overview of all the herpetological species within the European area. A revised and updated edition came out in 2002.

Herpetology of China, Er-mi Zhao and Kraig Adler, SSAR, 1993. Catalogue of practically every reptile and amphibian species found in mainland China, Hongkong, Macao, Tibet and Taiwan. There are few details of the ecology of the animals, but readers are referred to a very comprehensive bibliography, and colour plates are provided for many of the creatures listed.

Newts & Salamanders - a complete pet owner's manual, Frank Indiviglio, Barrons 1997. An excellent introduction to the subject of the care and husbandry of newts and salamanders, giving a general natural history, general requirements in captivity and finally a very wide selection of popular species accounts and their needs.

Newts, Jordan Patterson, TFH, 1994. This is a slim but useful volume for anyone wanting to keep newts rather than salamanders, with the important exception of the popular Fire Salamander, Salamandra salamandra, on which there is a handy section at the end. The book contains a brief history of the genera Cynops, Triturus, Tylototriton, Taricha, Parmesotriton, Pleurodeles and Notopthalmus, followed by generalised notes on care topics such as feeding, housing and breeding.

I have not completely read either of the following, but they may prove useful and have been recommended by others:

Newts and Salamanders of Europe, Richard Griffiths, Academic Press, 1996.

Breeding Terrarium Animals, Elke Zimmermann, TFH 1986.


Tree of Life has a very useful entry on the Family Salamandridae, including the anatomical characteristics.

AmphibiaWeb is a useful source for species lists and has information on some if not most of the species. also has a well-organised and informative set of pages on the Salamandridae.

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