Did You Know?  Science Facts with Julie - Lizards versus Salamanders By Julie Grialou, our Conservation Biologist

Did You Know? Science Facts with Julie - Lizards versus Salamanders By Julie Grialou, our Conservation Biologist

Tiger Salamander Kiesau
Photo of a tiger salamander, taken by Mary Kiesau.

I occasionally hear people say things like “I saw a salamander with a blue tail,” or “I regularly see salamanders and other lizards.” The difference between a lizard and a salamander can be confusing to many of us, as they both have 4 short legs, and are generally long and slender with a long tail. These similarities in appearance belie their evolutionary and ecological differences, as lizards are reptiles and salamanders are amphibians.

Blue skink from idaho fish and game
Photo of a skink, courtesy of the Idaho Department of Fish and Game. Juvenile western skinks have bright blue tails, which generally fade with age. Some adults retain blue on the tail, others do not

Lizards and other reptiles have scales on their skin and generally lay shelled eggs on land, while salamanders and other amphibians have moist, scaleless skin and lay eggs (that lack shells) in water or very moist terrestrial environments. The skink, a lizard that has a blue tail, seems to be the lizard that is most often confused for a salamander. Check out these photos, and maybe you will see one of these species this spring.

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