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How do salamanders breathe?

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Quick Answer

Different subspecies of salamanders and newts breathe differently at various stages of life. Siren salamanders use gills to breathe throughout their entire lives, while tiger salamanders only use gills early in life and then develop the ability to breathe through their developed lungs. Most salamanders breathe through their skin and membranes located in the mouth and throat, as they do not have gills or lungs for breathing.

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Full Answer

One reason that different types of salamanders breathe differently is because various subspecies of salamanders inhabit different environments. For example, the siren salamander must be able to breathe underwater, which explains its use of gills for the duration of its life. The tiger salamander loses its gills by adulthood, making it necessary for it to be able to breathe through its lungs.

The majority of salamanders breathe through a combination of their skin and membranes in the mouth and throat. These lungless salamanders, as well as other salamanders, must have moist skin in order to survive. Salamanders can die if their skin gets too dry or overheated. While some salamanders spend their entire lives in the water in order to maintain their wet skin, such as gilled salamanders like siren salamanders, other salamanders resort to staying out of the sun by hiding beneath rocks or occasionally dipping into small pools of water. Some salamanders have become so accustomed to living in dark, damp spaces that they have decreased eye size and pale skin.

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