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Wildlife in Italy: Salamandra Alpina

Wildlife in Italy: Salamandra Alpina


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Systematic classification and distribution

Class: Amphibians
Order: urodeles
Family: Salamandridi
Kind: Salamander
Species: S. atra

The distribution area of ​​the Alpine Salamander begins in the Vaud Alps east of the Rhone Valley (Switzerland) and extends along all the northern Alps, through the Säntis massif, to the Austrian Alps, reaching 50 km from Vienna. Here it deviates south and continues, albeit with isolated and very distant populations, through the Dinaric Alps to northern Albania.
In Italy it is exclusively present on the pre-Alpine and central-eastern Alpine arc. Mountain species, it is found in wooded environments but also in high prairies, usually between 800 and 2300 m a.s.l. At low altitude, Salamandra atra is found in the more closed valleys, in the gorges, near waterfalls and forests, all areas with high humidity.
The subspecies lives in the Italian Alps east of Trento, on the Asiago plateau Salamander atra aurorae Trevisan 1982 adorned with large yellowish-white washed spots that make it similar to the well-known fire salamander, Salamandra salamandra (Linnaeus 1758).

Distinctive characters

As an adult it can reach 16 cm in total length, including the tail, but normally it does not exceed 13 cm. It generally has a completely black ebony or more rarely dark brown body, with often evident ribs. The parotoid glands are large and evident.
The sexual dimorphism is not very evident and is limited to the protruding cloaca of the male compared to the slightly raised one of the female.

Biology

The Alpine salamander spends most of its life hidden in underground shelters. The period of activity rarely starts before May and is maximum in June, July and August, while during the month of September these animals retire to winter shelters. The moments of greatest activity are located during the summer storms or immediately after them, or in the early hours of the morning when the humidity is particularly high; in cold periods there is no surface activity.
Its diet mainly includes insects and other terrestrial arthropods, evermi molluscs. The reproductive biology of Salamandra atra is peculiar. The mating takes place on the ground, in June, and the fertilization of only two eggs occurs which will give rise to embryonic development within the maternal body. The gestation lasts between two and four years, depending on the quota, until the metamorphosis occurs, following which two young salamanders, all similar to adults, are born. The adult female may mate again at least one season away from farrowing.

Alpine salamander (photo www.centroanfibilagoendine.valcavallina.bg.it)

Alpine salamander (photo http://vipersgarden.at)


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