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A wandering salamander can also rise out of a tree

A wandering salamander can also rise out of a tree

It lives in the tallest trees in the world, and jumps without a problem if disturbed. How salamanders roamAneides Vagrans) I managed to land in one piece after this huge jump was a mystery. Three American biologists now appear in scientific journals current biology from the answer: salamander behaves like a skydiver.

Salamanders, like other amphibians, have a thin skin that allows them to absorb oxygen – if that skin is wet, that is. That is why they live in environments rich in water: in ponds, along streams or in moist forests. The latter is the case for the wandering salamander: the often-spotted gray salamander that is native to California’s redwood forests. The species sometimes lives on the forest floor, but individuals can also be found in the crowns of redwoods, reaching a height of more than 80 meters. Here comes the humidity Thanks fern tree It absorbs rainwater like a sponge. One tree crown can hold up to 29 salamanders.

Wandering Salamander in Sequoia.
Photo by Christian Brown

Air ‘leather panels’

Biologists wrote that although various animals, such as spiders, are known to be able to fall from great heights without any problems, salamanders are not known for their aerial acrobatic qualities. It also lacks aerodynamic “skin flaps” like those seen in flying squirrels, for example. To be able to land safely, it is almost necessary to take a stable position during the fall.

To test this assumption, the researchers had a vertical wind tunnel built in which they shot four salamanders 45 times each, and photographed them with a high-speed camera. This is how they decided it Aneides Vagrans In all cases, take a skydiving pose, with legs and tail extended. This reduced his speed to a maximum of 0.95 meters per second. In the end, he reached a nearly constant vertical speed, comparable to the speed of skydivers whose parachutes were deployed once. Other salamander species also adopted a similar attitude, but did not hold it for long. Especially those who never live in trees Ensatina eschscholtzii – which, by the way, is like Aneides Vagrans The other two species studied belonged to the family of lungless salamanders, and therefore had no lungs at all—they did poorly in a wind tunnel.

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Despite its streamlined appearance and lack of skin flaps, wandering salamanders have some physical characteristics that make it relatively easier to skydive than other salamanders. The flat body, long limbs, and large feet mean that it can reorient relatively easily in the air. However, not every specimen will need this: some individuals remain on the same tree their whole lives, and they will never have to float.