View Full Version : Salamandra algira defensive behaviour

29th January 2006, 13:47
Yesterday while photographing the CB Salamandra algira of my father I noticed this defensive behaviour; I've seen this in the wild in Corsica too.

Does anyone recognize this behaviour from ssp of Salamandra salamandra in the wild or in captivity?


29th January 2006, 15:14
HI Wouter,

In some Salamandra taxa this behaviour is easily provoked. Especially S. s. "alfredtschmidti" but also Lyciasalamandra (former Mertensiella) are very prone to do this when disturbed.

30th January 2006, 07:55
In Zeitschrift für Feldherpetolgie (german) last year a piece by Rudolf Malkmus was published showing S.s. crespoi and S.s. gallaica showing more or less the same type of behaviour. I'll get you a copy ;-)
But all known cases are more or less loose observations.

30th January 2006, 20:31
Hi Wouter,

did not see it in Salamandra salamandra but in Salamandra atra atra:

1st February 2006, 11:55
Hi Paul, Amphibien Europas from Nollert & Nollert also refers to atra for this behaviour, but not from Salamandra salamandra. I'm guessing most of the Salamandra sp exibits this behaviour, although I've never seen it in S. s. terrestris.

Serge, thanks for the copy, I thought I remembered you telling about southern European salamandra once who also did this.

2nd February 2006, 10:08
Has anyone seen this behaviour in other genera? I've read in a popular book that head butting and lunging occurs in "mole salamanders and sharp-ribbed newts".

It looks slightly similar to the defence behaviour in Bufo, where the body is inflated and raised, while the head is pointed downwards.

2nd February 2006, 12:01
There has been published a great deal of defensive behaviour by Brodie. It all depends on where the poison comes from I guess. Bufo and Salamandra/Lyciasalamandra have two big poison glands behind their eyes, which they seem to aim in the direction of the aggressor. Pleurodeles waltl bows in an arch position to protrude the ribs, but P. nebulosus doesn't by the way (published by me and Frank Pasmans). Within Triturus/Mesotriton/Neurergus there are also different forms where probably the red coloration of the underside a role plays. Here is a Neurergus strauchii in defensive behaviour which is very similar to Mesotriton and Triturus carnifex/cristatus.

2nd February 2006, 12:08
One of my Cynops cyanurus female in defensive behaviour:

2nd February 2006, 13:08
Great shots Sergé and Paul. In both cases is the tail static or moving? I would have expected more of an unken response from a cynops considering it’s ventral colouring. I’m guessing toxic concentrations are higher in the tail for both these animals and there is a clear desire to protect the head. I heard that Salamandra were capable of spraying toxins from their paratoids and had special muscles for this purpose, anyone ever seen this? It would explain the tilted body in Wouter’s photo.

2nd February 2006, 17:20
My Bufo Americanus used to do something similar to this. They did it for a while until they got used to me putting food in their tank.

3rd February 2006, 10:13
<blockquote><hr size=0><!-quote-!><font size=1>Mark AT wrote on Thursday, 02 February, 2006 - 13:08 : (#POST83524)</font>

&quot;In both cases is the tail static or moving?&quot;<!-/quote-!><hr size=0></blockquote>
both (Salamandra atra and Cynops cyanurus) were not moving. They seemed very stiff.

<blockquote><hr size=0><!-quote-!><font size=1>Mark AT wrote on Thursday, 02 February, 2006 - 13:08 : (#POST83524)</font>

&quot;I heard that Salamandra were capable of spraying toxins from their paratoids and had special muscles for this purpose, anyone ever seen this?&quot;<!-/quote-!><hr size=0></blockquote>
On my trip to Austria in 2004 I saw it when my daughter took a Salamandra atra in her hands. I described it here:

Once I also saw it at an S.s.terrestris in the wild.

There is a film made by David Attenborough where it is shown were good.


3rd February 2006, 10:29
Very interesting Paul! There is an article on feuersalamander.com (see ref below) about the future S. s. alfredschmidti spraying toxins on the authors glasses. My father has experienced this too, and I kinda hoped that the S. algira would do it for me when I took the picture...

I never knew that there was a film about it, I'm very curious about that!

LEER, E. G. (1998): Die Salamander des Tendi-Tals in Asturien / Nord Spanien.- Elaphe 6(2): 96-97.

3rd February 2006, 23:20
Wouter, David Attenborough's film is
"The immortal Salamander"
Only a short but impressive scene about Salamandra salamandra. But beautiful pictures from North American Salamanders.


4th February 2006, 12:55
You beat me to it Paul. My wife works in the production of natural history programmes for the BBC so I asked her to dig out the footage you mentioned. She came home with a Wildlife on One, “The Immortal Salamander”. I’ve just watched it and can vaguely remember seeing it years ago… The shot of the Salamandra firing toxins into the wolf’s face was surprising because the toxins are released from it’s back and not the paratoids as one might expect. There is some wonderful footage of North American sals and some great clips of Central American species. If you want a VHS copy Wouter, I might be able to get one for you.

4th February 2006, 18:32
On the other hand, how do you guys manage to provoke them into defensive behavior? I've never seen anything of this extreme from any of my newts. Assuming some species/individuals do it much more readily?

What I noticed for Cynops is that when the small ones(morphs in particular) are picked up or moved on the occasion they will immediately stiffen and if held a little longer curl their bodies around/against whatever picked them up(such as a finger or tweezer). They don't stay that way when they fall off though. Pretty sure they are secreting toxin while doing this. Has anyone else seen this?

4th February 2006, 22:47
<blockquote><hr size=0><!-quote-!><font size=1>Joseph S wrote on Saturday, 04 February, 2006 - 18:32 : (#POST83800)</font>

&quot;On the other hand, how do you guys manage to provoke them into defensive behavior? I've never seen anything of this extreme from any of my newts. &quot;<!-/quote-!><hr size=0></blockquote>
Joseph, I never provoke any Urodela to this behaviour!
I keep dozens of different newts and salamander since many years, found hundreds of S.s. terrestris, and nearly hundred S.a.atra in the wild and saw it three times (one Cynops cyanurus, one S.s.terrestris and one S.a.atra)

5th February 2006, 15:10
Same for me Joseph, it just happens sometimes. As Paul said, when you encounter lots of animals, the chances become larger.

Mark, I looked for the video too, and it turned out I already had it, but I totally forgot that... Beautiful indeed!

11th May 2006, 21:50

on one of my last trips I found a Salamandra s. terrestris in defensive behavior


13th May 2006, 11:36
I suppose that all the salamandra species exibit this behaviour then... A S. s. bernardezi from a few weeks ago, in the Picos de Europa: