From the world of amphibians, frogs, toads, newts, we also have salamanders, an animal that's often mistaken for a lizard because it's lizard-like in its appearance. But if you could reach out of the camera there and feel this, you'd realize he's kind of on the slimy side. He's an amphibian, and amphibians are characterized by their wet bodies. We know that reptiles really are dry skinned creatures, but amphibians are always on the wet side.
Most amphibians, almost invariably, start as an egg in the water or maybe in the crook of a tree in the rainforest, maybe a pond in your local neighborhood. They start out though invariably as an egg in the water. That egg hatches into a tadpole. A tadpole is an animal. It's a phase of an amphibian. It breathes water like a fish through gills, it swims with a tail, and it eats all kinds of microscopic organisms in the pond.
And then it changes one more final time. It will lose that tail, it will sprout feet near the base of the tail, arms pop out, the gills go away and lungs are formed, and the animal emerges to live the rest of its life on the land. But amphibians have one thing in common throughout their domain. That is they have to stay moist.
So, salamanders have solved that by living primarily under the ground. Rotted logs are a favorite place for them. And this is where we get the European Fire salamander. I have a little baby one here, beautifully colored with yellow spots on its back.
Legend has it from ancient times people, of course, would make fires to stay warm and they'd throw a log on the fire. And to their dismay sometimes, these amphibians would come scurrying out of the flames. That's where they got their name, the Fire Salamander. People thought they had magical properties because they could survive the fire. Really they were cooking in the log, and they just had to get out of there as fast as they could, so they scurried past people and they had, again, a lot of legends born as far as their toxicity, they were demons. You name it, they said something about the fire salamander.
But now we know that was just the fire that was causing the animals to scurry. Across into the United States, we come across another fantastic salamander, and that is the Tiger salamander. These are animals that are plentiful in certain parts of the country. I've been down the bayou in Louisiana and I see they actually sell these in stores as trout and bass bait, which is a terrible thing to do, if you ask me. But that's what they use them for. They're plentiful! They are the Tiger salamander because of their striped color, but also they are voracious predators.
These things live very similarly to a mole. Underneath the ground, they inhabit deep holes and they will hang there for most of the season until it starts to rain. Rain brings them out and makes them start to eat. And a tiger is a tiger. It will eat anything that gets in front of it. From earthworms to small mice, the Tiger makes meals of everything it comes across.
In certain areas of the country, Tiger salamanders are largely threatened. And in New York, where I come from, they are an endangered species. Reason being, we tend to build in the areas that they inhabit, marshlands and such. And people who survey the land look out and say, "There's no wildlife here. Let's go ahead and build." They're not understanding the Tiger salamander is living life like a mole. It's underneath the ground.
So, once the shopping center goes up, and the Tiger salamander is under 6 inches of concrete, that's the end of his habitat and that's the end of him. So, quickly in populated areas the Tiger salamander has started to disappear. Other areas, they are plentiful. But we have to try to protect them all. They come in beautiful colors, again, usually green, yellow, or red striped. The Tiger salamander: an American treasure for sure.