Skip to content

Lungless Salamander » Main characteristics, Habitat and Food

The lungless salamander is a rare animal, an amphibian that as its name indicates lacks lungs and inhabits several regions of the world.

More specifically, it is a member of the family Plethodontidae, which is composed of two subfamilies: Hemidactyliinae and Plethodontinae, 29 genera and 453 species.

Thus, although it is a rare animal, it is the most numerous family of salamanders on the planet.

The lungless salamander, as it is also known, is one of the rarest amphibians due to its characteristics that distinguish it from the rest of the salamanders.

Unfortunately, the scientific community still does not know many details about the characteristics and way of life of this animal. So there’s a long way to go.

Characteristics of the Lungless Salamander

Within the class of amphibians, the lungless salamander belongs to the order of caudados, therefore it shares characteristics with all the species that form it.

This animal, like all those of its order, has a fully developed tail, no middle ear, a wide and flat skull, and curved teeth.

But the characteristic that differentiates it and where its name comes from, is the absence of lungs in its organism. So what do they do to breathe?

As you might imagine, breathing in this species is done through the skin, so it is necessary for it to be kept moist all the time.

But to breathe they also use the epithelia (mucous membranes) that they have in the oropharyngeal cavity.

This strange amphibian has a nasolabial fold where the chemoreceptors are grouped.

A salamander from this group has 4 fingers on its front extremities and an evident loss of skull bones.

It is not uncommon to see some males with a lump on their upper lip and a mental gland under their mouth.

This rare animal is very agile when jumping, especially when it feels threatened.

To jump they bend their body sideways and then straighten it out to propel themselves into the air. They are able to jump distances of up to 1.8 times their body size.

Although these characteristics are usually common to all lungless salamanders, the truth is that this is such a large and varied group that it is difficult to find the same features in all of them.

For example, there is no single body shape, but the body can be thin in some cases and quite robust in others.

Also, although these salamanders are generally small, the size also varies, and there may be specimens that measure only 30 mm up to others that reach 320 mm in length.

Natural and Geographical habitat

Geographically, the Lungsless Salamander has been discovered on the American continent, from Canada (only the south) to Brazil.

However, a few years ago new genera were found in South Korea, other Asian countries and southern Europe.

Most commonly, the natural habitat of the lungless salamander is one where humidity is predominant, so it is common to see it in a cave or spring.

Feeding the Lungless Salamander

Not much is known about the eating habits of this salamander, however, researchers have shared some details.

Some species have the ability to project their tongue ballistically to catch their prey, which they often locate through their sense of smell.

The food of salamanders without lungs varies according to their size. Smaller species are more likely to consume worms, insects and mites.

Larger species may eat different invertebrates and even shorter salamanders.

Reproduction of the Lungsless Salamander

The female lungless salamander has a spermatheca that receives the male’s spermatophores. Therefore, in this species, fertilization is internal.

The eggs are cared for by the female but it is not uncommon for the male to take over this task.

Unlike other salamanders, some species in the Plethodontidae family are characterised by a complete metamorphosis.

This means that they have a complete development cycle, starting with eggs, then larvae and finally adults.

But in the case of the subfamilies Bolitoglossinae and Plethodontinae, there are no larvae but when the eggs hatch, the offspring come out completely formed with an appearance very similar to what they will have as adults.