Sunday, January 10, 2010

Salamander's Wool

I just came across the following list, a partial list of Appalachian salamanders. These names are new to me and what great names they are!

Aneides aeneus - Green Salamander
Desmognathus aeneus - Seepage Salamander
Desmognathus carolinensis - Carolina Mountain Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus folkertsi - Dwarf Black-bellied Salamander
Desmognathus fuscus - Northern Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus imitator - Imitator Salamander
Desmognathus monticola - Seal Salamander
Desmognathus ocoee - Ocoee Salamander
Desmognathus ocrophaeus - Allegheny Mountain Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus orestes - Blue Ridge Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus quadramaculatus - Black-bellied Salamander
Desmognathus santeetlah - Santeetlah Dusky Salamander
Desmognathus wrighti - Pygmy Salamander
Eurycea bislineata - Northern Two-lined Salamander
Eurycea cirrigera - Southern Two-lined Salamander
Eurycea lucifuga - Cave Salamander
Eurycea wilderae - Blue Ridge Two-lined Salamander
Gyrinophilus porphyriticus danielsi - Blue Ridge Spring Salamander
Gyrinophilus porphyriticus dunni - Carolina Spring Salamander
Gyrinophilus porphyriticus porphyriticus - Northern Spring Salamander
Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens - Red-spotted Newt
Plethodon aureolis - Tellico Salamander
Plethodon chattahoochee - Chattahoochee Slimy Salamander
Plethodon cheoah - Cheoah Bald Salamander
Plethodon cinereus - Eastern Red-backed Salamander
Plethodon cylindraceus - White-spotted Slimy Salamander
Plethodon dorsalis - Zigzag Salamander
Plethodon glutinosus - Slimy Salamander
Plethodon hubrichti - Peaks of Otter Salamander
Plethodon jordani - Red-cheeked Salamander
Plethodon kentucki - Cumberland Plateau Salamander
Plethodon metcalfi - Southern Graycheek Salamander
Plethodon montanus - Northern Graycheek Salamander
Plethodon nettingi - Cheat Mountain Salamander
Plethodon petraeus - Pigeon Mountain Salamander
Plethodon punctatus - Cow Knob Salamander (White-spotted Salamander)
Plethodon shenandoah - Shenandoah Salamander
Plethodon shermani - Red-legged Salamander
Plethodon teyahalee - Southern Appalachian Salamander
Plethodon virginia - Shenandoah Mountain Salamander
Plethodon wehrlei - Wehrle's Salamander
Plethodon welleri - Weller's Salamander
Plethodon yonahlossee - Yonahlossee Salamander
Pseudotriton ruber schenki - Black-chinned Red Salamander

Photos of these can be viewed at this outstanding website:

My most memorable event from 2009 was finding the Oconee Bells. 2009 was also the year I discovered how little I knew about wildflowers, when I started learning how to identify them.

At Black Camp Gap, "Masonic" Salamander, 6/10/09

Maybe 2010 will be the year of the salamander. It's about time that I see a hellbender in the wild. Long past time, actually. And this is just about one of the best places on the planet to find salamanders.

I've been thinking about salamanders since coming across this passage from Thomas Bulfinch's Age of the Fable:

THE FOLLOWING is from the “Life of Benvenuto Cellini,” an Italian artist of the sixteenth century, written by himself: “When I was about five years of age, my father, happening to be in a little room in which they had been washing, and where there was a good fire of oak burning, looked into the flames and saw a little animal resembling a lizard, which could live in the hottest part of that element. Instantly perceiving what it was, he called for my sister and me, and after he had shown us the creature, he gave me a box on the ear. I fell a-crying, while he, soothing me with caresses, spoke these words: ‘My dear child, I do not give you that blow for any fault you have committed, but that you may recollect that the little creature you see in the fire is a salamander; such a one as never was beheld before to my knowledge.’ So saying he embraced me, and gave me some money.”

It seems unreasonable to doubt a story of which Signor Cellini was both an eye and ear witness. Add to which the authority of numerous sage philosophers, at the head of whom are Aristotle and Pliny, affirms this power of the salamander. According to them, the animal not only resists fire, but extinguishes it, and when he sees the flame charges it as an enemy which he well knows how to vanquish.

That the skin of an animal which could resist the action of fire should be considered proof against that element is not to be wondered at. We accordingly find that a cloth made of the skin of salamanders (for there really is such an animal, a kind of lizard) was incombustible, and very valuable for wrapping up such articles as were too precious to be intrusted to any other envelopes. These fire-proof cloths were actually produced, said to be made of salamander’s wool, though the knowing ones detected that the substance of which they were composed was asbestos, a mineral, which is in fine filaments capable of being woven into a flexible cloth.

The foundation of the above fables is supposed to be the fact that the salamander really does secrete from the pores of his body a milky juice, which when he is irritated is produced in considerable quantity, and would doubtless, for a few moments, defend the body from fire. Then it is a hibernating animal, and in winter retires to some hollow tree or other cavity, where it coils itself up and remains in a torpid state till the spring again calls it forth. It may therefore sometimes be carried with the fuel to the fire, and wake up only time enough to put forth all its faculties for its defence. Its viscous juice would do good service, and all who profess to have seen it, acknowledge that it got out of the fire as fast as its legs could carry it; indeed, too fast for them ever to make prize of one, except in one instance, and in that one the animal’s feet and some parts of its body were badly burned.

Finally [or finally, for the time being] from The Hidden Life of Art, I learned:

The salamander is always pictured as engulfed by flames. Its primary significance is that of fire itself, of which it is both spirit and guardian. In medieval times, it additionally symbolized the heat of desire and , because it is sexless, chastity. In Christian iconography, the salamander represents faith and righteousness that survives the fire of temptation and evil.


dwbrewin said...

I was trout fishing in Fires Creek over in Clay Co. one day and I had caught a pretty good sized rainbow. Not having a creel, I strung it up and left it cooling in a pool where I continued to fish upstream for a while. When I got back, I noticed the stringer moving around in the water and when I pulled it out, there was about a 20" salamander trying to feast on my trout. They're pretty scary looking when you get close to them but it was also thrilling to see one up close.

Anonymous said...

A blast from the past- I spent some time in my stripling years studying lungless salamaders in western NC- the Nantahala region is particularly blessed with Plethodontidae


Anonymous said...

I must admit I found your blog by searching for Judaculla Rock on Google. Two hours later I have not been able to stop browsing and reading these past entries. I delved into the mystic realm of the genus Plethodon on Heintooga Ridge on a damp fall evening beneath the harvest moon. As most WCU biology students will profess, a headlamp and childlike curiosity is all that is needed to appreciate these beautiful creatures. Please continue to post these excellent commentaries on WNC.

GULAHIYI said...

Receiving comments like yours, how could I stop? Thanks. You made my day!