When you think of amphibians, you probably think of frogs and toads. But do you think of salamanders? These amazing amphibians come in a variety of colors and sizes, and many of them call Illinois home! Read on to learn more.
What are salamanders?
Although salamanders look like lizards, they’re actually amphibians! Instead of dry, rough skin, they have smooth, moist skin. Their skin is also permeable (water can soak into it), so they live near water or in damp places. Learn more about salamanders by checking out this video from the Eco Museum Zoo.
Guiding Question: Have you ever touched a salamander? What did it feel like? Can you think of another animal that has skin like that?
Meet the tiger salamander!
Did you know that this cool critter is our state amphibian? It’s called the tiger salamander. It likes to eat small insects and worms, and can grow up to 33 centimeters long! In the wild, these salamanders spend most of their time on land, and live in forests and woodlands. We have some tiger salamanders at the Nature Museum, including this one named Kaa!
Guiding Question: Why do you think it’s called a tiger salamander? What is unique about its coloring? Do you think its coloring helps it in the wild?
Like tiger salamanders, blue-spotted salamanders are also native to Illinois! These salamanders are quite a bit smaller, though, only reaching about 13 centimeters long. Their coloring helps them blend in when they are swimming in ephemeral ponds (seasonal pools of water that dry up by late summer).
Guiding Question: What do you notice about this salamander’s coloring? How is it different from the tiger salamander? Why do you think they’re different? What can that tell us about where they live?
Make your own 3D salamander!
Now that you’ve met a few salamanders, including some that live at the Nature Museum, make your own using this 3D lizard craft guide! You’ll just need paper, markers or crayons, some glue, and scissors. Want more fun? Download this salamander activity booklet!
Guiding Question: Do you want to decorate your salamander like one we talked about today? How is like a real salamander? How is it different?
Behind the scenes!
Dr. Allison is out in the field looking for salamanders right now! She’s conducting a long-term study of how restoring oak woodlands is impacting our salamander friends. Check out her photos from the field in our salamander Instagram highlight.