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While cleaning out a spot where our drinking water spring has an overflow pipe I came across three amazing adult red salamanders under some rocks. The younger one shown is brighter red and they become darker as they age. The bright red color is believed to be a warning to potential predators with color vision (birds and reptiles but not most mammals) that they have a toxic skin secretion. They also resemble another locally common juvenile form (the red eft) of the newt, which has a very toxic substance (tetrodotoxin) in its skin and organs. The close resemblance of two animals that are both toxic is called Muellerian mimicry, since it is easier to teach predators to avoid a common color pattern. This may be confusing for birds to learn this since many of the fruits they eat are red. Adult red salamanders are mostly terrestrial in damp locations but lay their eggs in the fall in the water; the aquatic larvae have gills and require several years to mature. Another remarkable thing about these salamanders that love cool spring waters is that they have no lungs, but respire only through their skins.
So when you are turning over rocks near a spring or cool stream watch out for this lovely and amazing amphibian, but do not eat it !
Galax, VA & Englewood, FL