On your next trip to Slovenia go hiking, be outdoors, immerse yourself in nature! And keep your eyes and ears open as the paths of our mountains can give you numerous encounters and surprises.
Today we will tell you about the salamander, a curious little animal that we met a few days ago in the woods. It’s been a while since we’ve seen her but we’re always happy to see her again because she is really charming!
This little amphibian has always transmitted something mysterious and we humans have always attributed numerous magical and symbolic virtues to it. Did you know that the main feature it was believed to have was the ability to withstand direct fire? It was therefore for a long time the favorite animal of alchemists. But also of the purists who identified the animal with the virtues that allow the upright person to pass unscathed through life’s temptations. Due to the contrast between the black skin and the yellow spots, the salamander was once also considered to symbolize the transition between life and death.
While hiking in Slovenia you will have the chance to meet two species of salamander:
The fire salamander is quite common in Slovenia. You can find it in the middle mountains near springs or small streams in fresh and humid deciduous forests such as those of the Soča Valley. It can grow up to 20cm and is mildly toxic with venom glands all over its body that protect it from predators. Rest assured, it is still not dangerous to humans unless the poison enters its eyes or mouth. The arrangement, shape and size of the scattered yellow spots on the glossy black body is different in each specimen. A unique feature of these amphibians is the ability to regenerate their organs – not just lost legs, but also more complex organs such as kidneys, eyes and even the heart. You will have a better chance of seeing it in the evening or on rainy days when it goes into the undergrowth in search of food or a partner. It can live up to 20 years.
To see the black salamander instead you will need more luck because it is rarer. The body shape is similar to that of the fire salamander but in addition to being completely black it is smaller – it can grow up to 14 centimeters at most. The black salamander is also called the mountain salamander as it lives at higher altitudes up to 2200m above sea level. During your hikes in Slovenia you will therefore find it mainly in the Julian Alps, in open areas above the forest line, such as meadows and mountain pastures. The colder climate of the mountains has required some incredible evolutionary adaptations to this little beast. First of all, thanks to its black color, its body heats up more quickly in the sun. Furthermore, this little animal does not need water to survive but only a considerable amount of humidity. The most astounding feature however is related to fertility! The female does not lay eggs but these hatch inside her body with the larvae developing in the mother’s body for 2, 3 or even 4 years. Initially the female carries about 60 fertilized eggs, of which in the end usually only two fully developed young remain which have devoured the rest of the eggs to survive.