Whenever winter appears you will notice that salamanders and other species of amphibians are not visible anywhere on the ground. Have you ever asked yourself why is that?
It is because salamanders are not blessed with the ability to control the internal body temperature. As soon as the temperature has a sharp fall, the salamander’s body temperature becomes low too. So, they had to go for shelter under versatile conditions to ensure they are in a comparatively less cold temperature zone.
Whenever temperatures rise too high, salamanders have a hard time as their body easily absorbs the heat. This is a big reason they’ll keep themselves hiding under wooden logs, leaf litter, and rocks.
So you can see, unlike us, their ability to control body temperature isn’t as good. Does it have something to with their blood? Yeah it does. I’ll explain in detail below.
Do salamanders have cold blood?
Some people might think a salamander’s blood is cold, which is not the case at all. ‘’Cold blood ‘’ is a term which means they are ectothermic. Ectothermic species can’t generate heat in their body using their metabolism. Salamanders belong to this category.
So literally salamanders don’t have cold blood. Hope its clear to you.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, endothermic or warm blood species can generate heat using their metabolism system.
So, Salamanders are cold-blooded, but that doesn’t mean their blood is literally cold. It’s just they can’t regulate their body heat like us. So… how can they regulate it? I’ll describe it to you below:
How do salamanders regulate their body heat?
Salamanders, belonging to the family of Amphibians, exhibit unique and complex physiological mechanisms to regulate their body temperature. Unlike endotherms, these creatures lack internal thermoregulatory structures and thus are primarily dependent on the ambient environmental temperature. This article delves deeper into the multiple strategies they employ to control their body heat, ensuring their survival in diverse conditions.
The Ectothermic Nature of Salamanders
Being ectotherms, salamanders maintain their body temperature by exchanging heat with the surrounding environment. This regulatory mechanism encompasses two essential aspects: absorption of heat when their body temperature falls below the required threshold and dissipation of heat when their body temperature exceeds optimal levels.
Notably, salamanders engage in a state of dormancy known as torpor to conserve energy during periods of low temperatures. Furthermore, they can enhance their heat absorption capacity by increasing the moisture content in their tissues, enabling them to better absorb heat from their surroundings.
Protective Skin and Glandular Adaptations
A salamander’s skin, which plays a crucial role in thermoregulation, is dotted with minute glands that secrete a wax-like substance. This waxy secretion serves dual functions – it prevents desiccation by reducing water loss and aids in retaining moisture within their bodies, which is beneficial during their daytime activities and colder climates.
During periods of elevated temperatures, salamanders are known to seek cool shelters like shady spots or burrows to prevent overheating. They also adopt an intriguing behavior of keeping their tails close to the ground, a strategy aimed at minimizing heat loss through their tails, which often extends to a substantial length.
Vasodilation and Vasoconstriction: Role in Heat Regulation
Salamanders leverage a fascinating physiological process known as vasomotion to control their heat absorption and loss. By manipulating their blood flow, they are able to modulate their body temperature.
When salamanders need to dissipate excess heat, they undergo vasodilation, a process in which the blood vessels beneath their outer skin expand. This expansion allows an increased volume of blood to flow through these vessels, facilitating efficient heat transfer from their body to the environment.
Conversely, in colder conditions, when it becomes imperative to conserve body heat, salamanders resort to vasoconstriction. In this process, the blood vessels near the skin constrict, reducing the flow of blood to these areas and thereby limiting the amount of heat lost to the environment.
All in all, these marvelous species know very well how to handle the temperature in their unique way.
Can salamanders survive cold weather?
When the temperature takes a sharp fall and continues for a few days, a significant number of salamander species will be dead due to freezing.
Salamander that survive below 0 degree Celsius temperature
Only the Siberian salamander & the Himalayan salamander can survive harsh winters.
A Siberian salamander species can easily survive a -50 degrees Fahrenheit. They are gifted with powers which allow them to go for the yearlong frozen state which is impossible for other salamanders.
In addition to that, a Himalayan salamander can survive at -4 degree Fahrenheit ( -20 degree Celsius).
Salamander that survive at 1-10 degree Celsius temperature
The gorgeous fire belly newt can handle cold temperatures low to 37.4 degrees Fahrenheit ( 3 degrees Celsius). Usually, they enter into a hibernation mood to pass the winter without any hassle.
Iranian kaiser newt can survive at 41-50 degrees Fahrenheit (5-10 degrees celsius).
Lake Urmia newts can easily live at 39.2-41 (4-5 degree celsius) while they go through a long hibernation process.
Fire salamanders can stay fully active when the temperature reaches 41 degrees Fahrenheit ( 5 degrees Celsius).
Eastern newts are among the highly desirable salamander pets and can survive in temperatures of 40-50 degrees Fahrenheit ( 4.44-10 degrees Celsius).
Plus, the red salamander is often seen close to a cold water body that has a temperature range from 41-60 degrees Fahrenheit. So, this species also survives when the water is more than the freezing level.
Dunn’s salamanders were seen to live with full comfort in their natural habitat at 39.2-44.6 degrees Fahrenheit temperature ( 4-7 degree celsius).
Salamander that survive at 10+ temperature
In mild cold weather like 10-12 degrees Celsius, salamander species like tiger salamanders, spotted salamanders, and crested newts can be fully active and happy. There is little chance for the majority of salamanders to survive extreme cold weather.
What advantages and disadvantages do salamanders have as cold-blooded animals?
As an ectothermic species, salamanders & newts have both advantages and disadvantages.
So let’s look at both of them in the following…
The way a salamander gets some benefits from their cold-blooded features is a bit interesting. Let’s explore them in the following…
Salamander’s temperature regulation doesn’t depend much on food
Unlike warm-blooded animals, salamanders need to consume less amount of food to maintain the proper body temperature.
Because their metabolism does not help them generate internal heat from the food source so they can live in a tough environment with very little intake of food. Which is quite impossible for a warm-blooded species.
Less vulnerable to parasites
Due to their cold-blooded nature salamanders, body temperatures always keep shifting with their surrounding environment. Which makes them a less attractive host for different types of bacteria, and parasites.
Because most of the parasites need a constant warm temperature to live on. In the case of salamanders, their body never remains at the same temperature.
Salamanders can go without food for a long time
When the grass layer is covered in white snow, salamanders are one of those few species that can go for a prolonged period of time without any food.
Salamanders turn their body heat low and their metabolism becomes extremely slow. This allows them to live without food for weeks and in the case of Mudpuppies salamanders, they can live without food for a whole month.
Along with the advantages of salamanders, cold-blooded nature has disadvantages and these are…
No nocturnal activity
In every climate zone, the temperature falls a bit at night time. Due to their dependency on the temperature of their habitat they rarely move in darkness. Their mood & body become fully sluggish after sunset.
So on the next day to become fully active they are required to absorb a certain amount of heat from the sun.
How do salamanders survive in extreme weather?
Like any other animal species, salamanders become highly vulnerable when they face any extreme rise or fall in their habitat. Being a cold-blooded species, the salamander’s probability of death or serious health problems remains quite high.
Salamanders have some specific adaptation technique that helps them to deal with extreme heat & harsh cold.
Salamanders use effective techniques for shielding themselves from the death threat of winter. They start migrating into sites where they are fully protected plus well-insulated from the cold temperature.
As you know there are two types of salamanders: terrestrial and aquatic salamanders. Terrestrial salamanders move to certain depths underground burrows, inside deep cracks of large rocks/wood logs, or forest leaf litter, etc.
While aquatic salamanders try to beat the winter by settling down on the bottom of ponds or lakes where the temperature level is pretty warm even in the winter season.
During the harsh winter when the temperature stays around 5-10 degrees Celsius (41-50 degrees Fahrenheit ) the salamander starts hibernation. Thus, their body metabolism remains at only 5%. As I said earlier this hibernation or torpor allows them to survive without food.
When the summer says hello and the temperature gradually rises to a level where everyone expects to sweat then the terrestrial salamander goes for shelter under burrows and shady low heat areas close to the water stream.
Only in the summertime do they hunt food when the temperature is much lower than in day time.
Moreover, an aquatic salamander simply moves to the cooler zone of water bodies to keep themselves in optimum condition.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can salamanders survive in warm weather?
Salamander bodies are not made to deal with high-level temperatures. Most salamanders will have organ failure if they are exposed to 77 degrees Fahrenheit ( 25 degrees Celsius temperature).
Why is a salamander cold-blooded?
Salamanders are known as cold-blooded animal due to their ectothermic nature. Please remember their blood is not cold, it’s just a term.
Is a salamander warm or cold-blooded?
Salamanders are cold-blooded animals that can’t regulate their own body temperature using internal heat.
Are salamanders hot-blooded?
No, salamanders are not hot-blooded.
So there you have it. Salamaders don’t have cold blood, they are rather ectothermic i.e. not able to regulate their temperature which makes people think they are “cold-blooded”. I’m sure if this topic arises in your local pet owner circle, the information from this article will sure win you a few points with your fellow peers.