When’s the last time you’ve considered salamanders? If it’s been awhile, Salamander Saturday is the perfect reason to learn more about these incredible creatures! The Foundation for the Conservation of Salamanders (FCSal) has designated May 6 as the yearly celebration of Salamander Saturday to increase awareness about salamanders and their vital role in the ecosystems where they’re found.
Although they are similar in appearance to lizards, salamanders are amphibians. Their thin, scaleless skin allows them to absorb water and oxygen—in fact, an entire family of salamanders, the Plethodontids, are lungless and conduct respiration through their skin.
Unfortunately, salamanders’ thin skin also allows them to easily absorb pollutants and other environmental contaminants from both the air and water. As a result, the health of salamander populations reflects the health of their environment.
Salamanders play an important role in their ecosystems by consuming large amounts of insects and other invertebrates, keeping these populations in check. By consuming “shredding invertebrates,” which are insects that shred leaf litter, salamanders also help prevent excess carbon from being incorporated into the global carbon cycle—when leaf litter is shredded by these invertebrates, carbon that would otherwise be absorbed into soil is instead released into the atmosphere.
Salamanders are vital members of many ecosystems, but their habitats are at risk due to deforestation worldwide. Chopsticks for Salamanders—another initiative by FCSal—encourages the use of reusable chopsticks instead of their disposable counterparts to help conserve the forests that many salamander species call home.