Cave salamander

A cave salamander is a type of salamander that primarily or exclusively inhabits caves, a group that includes several species. Some of these animals have developed special, even extreme, adaptations to their subterranean environments. Some species have only rudimentary (or even absent) eyes (blind salamanders). Others lack pigmentation, rendering them a pale yellowish or pinkish color (e.g., Eurycea rathbuni).

With the highly notable exception of Proteus anguinus, all "cave salamanders" are members of the family Plethodontidae ("lungless salamanders").


The first dedicated scientific study of a cave animal was focused upon a cave salamander, Proteus anguinus. It was originally identified as a "dragon's larva" by Johann Weikhard von Valvasor in 1689. Later, the Austrian naturalist Joseph Nicolaus Lorenz described it scientifically in 1768.[1][2]

Another early scientific description of a cave salamander was undertaken by Constantine Samuel Rafinesque in 1822 while he was a professor of botany and natural history at Transylvania University in Lexington, Kentucky. The species he described was known to the locals as a "cave puppet" and is now known to be Eurycea lucifuga. His discovery was not surprising at the time because E. lucifuga inhabits near the entrance of caves, thus an in-depth exploration was not required; and, E. lucifuga is neither blind nor depigmented.[1]

List of cave salamanders

  • The following species have commonly been termed "the cave salamander" without any additional modifier or adjective:
    • The olm (Proteus anguinus, or proteus), the first discovered example, a blind salamander endemic to caves of southeastern Europe[2]
    • The spotted-tail cave salamander (Eurycea lucifuga), a lungless salamander endemic to caves of the eastern United States
  • Eurycea (of North America) and Speleomantes (of Italy and France) are two genera of lungless salamanders with so many individual species termed "cave salamanders" that the entire group is sometimes so designated.
  • Individual species of "cave salamander" (in some cases "blind salamander"), usually designated with an additional modifier or adjective in their common name, include the following lungless salamanders:


  1. Romero, Aldemaro (2009). Cave Biology: Life in Darkness. New York: Cambridge University Press. pp. 8–10. ISBN 978-0-521-53553-3.
  2. Ley, Willy (February 1968). "Epitaph for a Lonely Olm". For Your Information. Galaxy Science Fiction. pp. 95–104.

See also

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