July 2007 Archives

the larvae of dragons

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I recently came across a zoology blog on tetrapod zoology by Daren Naish describing several articles on biogeography and salamanders. A large portion of the post was given to the olm, Proteus anguinus. There are so many fascinating facts about this salamander but easily the most fascinating is that this salamander was originally thought to be the larvae of dragons. When viewing them I can see why. They are long bodied, gilled and have a dragon-like appearance.

The article also mentions a reference to a study done on the olm showing that the species may be not one single species but many distinct species that immigrated into the cave system and independently developed similar physical traits or morphology. (Sket, B. 1997. Distribution of Proteus (Amphibia: Urodela: Proteidae) and its possible explanation. Journal of Biogeography 24, 263-280.)

They are even looked at as a national treasure. Slovenia, one of the county's where this species occurs, has even issued currency featuring this salamander.

salamander dream

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While visiting my local library with my daughter I noticed the book "Salamander Dream" by Hope Larson. I brought it home and read it that evening. Surreal in both images and message, the book mixes both reality and fantasy. It depicts how as we move through our childhood our view of how we see the magic of nature changes. It also affirms how we can return from time to time to renew or at least peer again at that mystery. I understand the use of a salamander as a representation of this magic (hey, I am in my mid-30's and blogging about salamanders). As a young child, I often sat in the arms of a large oak tree in the summer of Southern Maryland. One summer day my older brother brought a large bucket filled from a spring and pulled from the brown mud a large blood-red gilled salamander. That event not only increased my already well used imagination, as I never imagined that creatures so fantastic really existed, but forever after filled me with wonder about the magic within nature. [On a side note, while rare, the salamander was probably a larval Tiger Salamander, Ambystoma tigrinum. It could have been a Mudpuppy, Necturus maculosus, but they are now considered extirpated or extinct in Maryland.] Needless to say, I'd recommend this book both for the great artwork as well as the message. The book is available at amazon.com and if order it through this link you'll be supporting the TSMP and this blog.