Adult Luschan’s Salamanders can reach a length of 14 cm, including the tail. It is a lean salamander with a slender tail and smooth skin, and large eyes (1). The dorsal surface and throat have many minute spines; males have a prominent spine at the tail base on the upper surface with a big cloacal swelling (1). It is the only amphibian to have a tail present in the south-east Aegean islands.
Their colouration is a dark brown on their dorsal surface, often with yellow spots present. The flanks are paler, and the belly is a flesh colour with paler markings (1). The underside of the tail base is orange, and the throat is yellow or pink (1).
Within the genus of Lyciasalamandra there are approximately seven species (2). There are no similar species found within the range of L. luschani. It is also known as Mertensiella luschani and Salamandra luschani (1). Populations that are found in Kasos, Saria and Karpathos are known as Mertensiella luschani helverseni, whilst those from Megisiti are a red colour and known as M. l. basoglui (1).
It is mainly active in winter and early in spring. During the summer months it tends to spend most of its time within deep crevices and cracks. It is a nocturnal species, but if the weather is wet it may become active during the day (1). If Luschan’s Salamander is threatened it may arch its back whilst standing tall on its legs and squeaking. The tail can be shed if it is grasped (1). It is a fast moving salamander species.
Mating season occurs in the spring, when the male will clamber underneath the female stimulating her cloaca whilst waving his tail and grasping forelimbs with each other. A relatively large spermatophore is then deposited, which the female will retrieve with her cloaca (1). Luschan’s Salamander is a viviparous species, which can produce one to two fully formed young after a gestation period of a year (3).
Can be found in quite dry habitats, such as pine woods and open scrubland (1). Will often be located near a seasonal stream or springs. This species is also present on limestone rocky outcrops (3).
It is endemic to Greece and Turkey (3). It can be found on the south-ease Aegean islands of Karpathos, Kasos and Saria (between Crete and Rhodes); Megisti island off the coast of Asiatic Turkey and Asiatic Turkey (1).
Salamanders are predators, and will feed on insects, slugs and other small invertebrates (4).
Although it was once considered Endangered, the last assessment in 2008 by the IUCN Red List has classified the Luschan’s salamander as Vulnerable (3). At the present moment, the population is stable within its range. However, it is threatened by habitat loss due to forest fires and collection for scientific reasons within its naturally occurring small home range (3).
Currently, it is listed under Appendix II of BERN Convention (5).
Description written by Sheridan Willis (2009)
(1) Arnold, E.N., 2004. A field guide to the reptiles and amphibians of Britain and Europe. 2nd ed. London: Harper Collins Publishers
(2) Zipcode Zoo 2009. Lyciasalamandra luschani in: <http://zipcodezoo.com/Animals/L/Lyciasalamandra_luschani/> Downloaded on 03 July 2009-07-03
(3) IUCN 2009. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species Version 2009.1 Lyciasalamandra luschani in: <http://www.iucnredlist.org/details/41241/0> Downloaded on 03 July 2009
(4) Byford, J.L. 1994. Salamanders in: <http://icwdm.org/handbook/reptiles/rep13.pdf> Downloaded on 03 July 2009
(5) Europe, C.o., 2002. Convention on the conservation of European wildlife and natural habitats: Bern Convention. [Online] Available at: http://conventions.coe.int/Treaty/FR/Treaties/Html/104-2.htm [Accessed 23 July 2009]