The largest member of the genus Salamandra (1) (3), the arouss al ayn (Salamandra infraimmaculata) is a rather distinctive salamander. It has uniformly black underparts, and the rest of the body is black and patterned with big, yellow, round-edged spots. There are usually four spots on the large, squarish head: one behind each eye and one behind each paratoid gland (3) (4). The female arouss al ayn is generally larger than the male (1) (3).
There are three known subspecies of arouss al ayn, which vary in their size, appearance and geographic range. Salamandra infraimmaculata infraimmaculata is large with round, yellow spots, a black underside and a square head. Salamandra infraimmaculata orientalis is similar in appearance to S.i.infraimmaculata, except with smaller, less rounded spots. Salamandra infraimmaculata semenovi has numerous irregular, rose-shaped spots all over its body, a more rounded head than the other subspecies and a large, stocky body (2) (3).
- Also known as
- near eastern fire salamander.
- Salamandra salamandra, Salamandra semenovi.
- Length: up to 32 cm (2) (3)
Arouss al ayn biology
The arouss al ayn is dependent on aquatic habitats for reproduction, returning to rock pools, springs, quarries or slow-moving streams when it reaches sexual maturity at three to four years old (1) (5) (7) (8) (7). The breeding season occurs during winter and early spring, when the female deposits larvae into water (1) (7). The female is ovoviviparous, giving birth to between 10 and 40 live young, with larger female typically producing more offspring (9) (10). The larvae are large, usually measuring between 2.5 and 4 centimetres (6), and possess gills for their aquatic phase of life (1). The larvae are carnivorous, with the diet mostly consisting of crustaceans and insects, although they are often cannibalistic (6) (11). The aquatic larval phase of the arouss al ayn lasts for between two and three months, with gradual metamorphosis usually occurring before early spring (5) (6). However, a small number of the larval population may remain in permanent aquatic sites until the following rainy season (5).
A generally nocturnal species, the arouss al ayn is mostly active on rainy nights in winter and spring (5) (9); however, it may sometimes be seen in the daytime during wet weather (1).
Arouss al ayn range
The range of the arouss al ayn extends east from Turkey through the Syrian Arab Republic, to Iraq, Israel, Lebanon and Iran (1) (2) (5). It occurs between elevations of 180 and 2,000 metres in the Taurus Mountains of southern Turkey (1).
The range of each subspecies varies, with S.i.infraimmaculata being found in Lebanon, the Syrian Arab Republic, Israel and south-east Turkey, S.i.orientalis in central-southern Turkey (2) (3), and S.i.semenovi in Turkey and the Zagros Mountains of Iraq and Iran (2) (3).
Species with a similar range
Arouss al ayn habitat
Generally, S.i.orientalis is found in humid mountain forests under dead leaves, bark and stones, while S.i.semenovi is found in arid areas where there are often cork oaks and small streams during the rainy season (3).
In the winter months between November and April, rainfall creates temporary freshwater rock pools in the wadis and bedrock (5) (6). During the breeding season, the arouss al ayn is found around these temporary pools (6), and also around slow-flowing spring-fed streams (1). The larvae of this species can be found in both temporary and permanent aquatic habitats fed by springs or melting snow (3) (6).
Species found in a similar habitat
Arouss al ayn status
The arouss al ayn is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).
Arouss al ayn threats
The arouss al ayn has a restricted distribution and a limited dispersal capacity, and the breeding sites required by this species are also highly fragmented (8). Development and conversion of land for agriculture throughout this species’ range is causing further fragmentation of its habitat. Mortality due to road accidents is frequent in Israel and eastern Turkey (1).
Damming of breeding streams, pollution and irrigation have affected the water supply within the range of this species, and the removal of ground water has further decreased the suitable breeding areas (1) (3). Breeding areas are also increasingly under threat from desiccation (5), as water is sparse, even during the winter breeding season (12). Introduced species such as the mosquitofish (Gambusia affinis) in Lebanon and Israel are a threat to this species as they occupy the same aquatic habitat and compete for similar resources (1) (5). The arouss al ayn may also be collected in certain areas for the pet trade (1).
Arouss al ayn conservation
The arouss al ayn occurs in a number of protected areas throughout its range, including Arz El-Shouf, Horj Ehden and Ammiq Marshes in Lebanon, and Mount Hermon, Mount Carmel and Tel Dan Natur in Israel. This species is also protected by national legislation in Israel. Attempts to create artificial breeding habitat for this species is being undertaken within the Mount Carmel protected area. Further research into the biology, habitat and distribution of this species is required in order to implement suitable conservation measures (1).
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- Feeding on flesh.
- Diverse group of animals with jointed limbs and a hard external skeleton, characterised by the possession of two pairs of antennae, one pair of mandibles (mouthparts used for handling and processing food) and two pairs of maxillae (appendages used in eating, which are located behind the mandibles). Includes crabs, lobsters, shrimps, woodlice and barnacles.
- A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
- Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
- An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
- Active at night.
- Producing young that develop inside eggs, but the eggs hatch inside the female’s body and the young are born live.
- Parotoid glands
- A pair of large, external skin glands which appear as swellings on the shoulders, neck or behind the eye of toads and some salamanders. The parotoid glands secrete a toxic, milky substance to deter predators.
- A population usually restricted to a geographical area that differs from other populations of the same species, but not to the extent of being classified as a separate species.
- Mountain canyons found in North Africa and the Middle East that only carry water when it rains.
IUCN Red List (December, 2011)
AmphibiaWeb - Salamandra infraimmaculata (December, 2011)
Raffaëlli, J. (2007) Les Urodèles du Monde. Penclen Édition, France. Available at:
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Segev, O. (2009) Conservation and Ecology of the Endangered Fire Salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata). Ph.D Thesis, University of Haifa, Israel.
Blaustein, L. (1997) Non-consumptive effects of larval Salamandra on crustacean prey: can eggs detect predators? Oecologia, 110: 212-217.
Warburg, M.R. (2008) Changes in recapture rate of a rare salamander in an isolated metapopulation studied for 25 years. Russian Journal of Herpetology, 15:11-18.
Neuwald, J.L. (2008) Temporal Changes in Population Genetic Dynamics of the Eastern Collared Lizard, Crotaphytus collaris collaris, in Response to Forest Fire Management. Ph.D Thesis, Washington University, USA.
Degani, G. and Mendellssohn, H. (1982) Seasonal activity of Salamandra salamandra (L.) (Amphibia: Urodela: Salamandridae) in the headwaters of the Jordan River. IsraelJournal of Zoology,31: 77-85.
Stebbins, R.C. and Cohen, N.W. (1995) A Natural History of Amphibians. Princeton University Press, Princeton.
Markman, S., Hill, N., Todrank, J., Heth, G. and Blaustein, L. (2009) Differential aggressiveness between fire salamander (Salamandra infraimmaculata) larvae covaries with their genetic similarity. Behavioural Ecology and Sociobiology, 63: 1149-1155.
Sharon, R., Degani, G. and Warburg, M.R. (1997) Oogenesis and the ovarian cycle in Salamandra salamandra infraimmaculata Mertens (Amphibia; Urodela; Salamandridae) in fringe areas of the taxon’s distribution. Journal of Morphology, 231: 149-160.