The Salamander | A Child of Water and Fire

Generally speaking, salamanders are short-bodied, four-legged and moist-skinned animals. Relatively small in size at about 10 to 15 cm, many are camouflaged, whereas others are boldly patterned or brightly coloured. Like other amphibians, they absorb water through their skin and require a moist habitat to survive and thrive.

Some salamander species are fully aquatic; some take to the water intermittently and others are entirely terrestrial as adults. Like the lizard, salamanders are capable of regenerating lost limbs as well as other damaged parts of their bodies. Unlike lizards, however, salamanders have several effective lines of defence.

The mucus coating on their damp skin makes them difficult to grasp. The slimy coating may have an offensive taste or be toxic. Although some salamanders have cryptic colours so as to remain unnoticeable, others signal their toxicity by their vivid colouring.

When attacked, a salamander positions itself to make the main poison glands face the aggressor. Most of the time, these poisons are on the tail. The sacrifice of the tail may be a worthwhile strategy, if the salamander escapes with its life and the predator learns to avoid that species of salamander in the future.

Over the course of history, legends have developed around the salamander; many of which are related to fire. This unscientific connection has its origins from a behaviour common to many species of salamander: hibernating in and under rotting logs. When wood was brought indoors and put on the fire, the creatures were believed to mysteriously appear from the flames.

In European heraldry, the salamander is typically depicted as either a lizard or a dragon within a blazing fire. Since the salamander is able to re-create what it loses in an act of self-defence, the salamander is a symbol of survival against the odds; even when the environment is not conducive to its growth or success. It will always find a way, regardless of what environment it finds itself in or what predator is chasing after it.

The salamander taught me that we should never give up even if we’ve suffered many setbacks on our journey. There is always room to grow again. In the case of the salamander, we can take this message quite literally. No misfortune is ever entirely irreversible. The salamander is able to overcome the many misfortunes that it encounters in its life.

The salamander has a big dream, but its true nature is often misunderstood. And yet, it is always there to remind us that even small creatures may have big dreams.


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