Alpine salamander (Salamandra atra) - Tyrolean Alps, Austria
I just got back from a short trip to Europe where I was able to see some of the European herps for the first time. This is my favorite species that I encountered, Salamandra atra, the alpine salamander! Really a gorgeous critter, in 2 days I found 4 individuals. Two were under cover and the other two were found on the crawl the morning after some nightime rain, this individual was found in the early morning as it was moving through the grass not far from this rock. It is amazing to me that a salamander lives so high up in the Alps, the habitat is quite different from anywhere else that I have encountered salamanders previously. This salamander is entirely terrestrial and both mating and birth take place on land. This species gives birth to two live young even though up to four are possible though uncommon. To me one of the most amazing things about this salamander is the length of the pregnancy, at lower altitudes the pregnancy lasts about 2 years and at higher altitudes such as where this one was found, the pregnancy lasts three or four years. Furthermore, I have found info saying pregnancy can even last up to five years! The young when they are born are miniature copies of the adults. Truly incredible, I know of no other amphibian with a reproduction system like that.
It is unclear how long lived this species is but numerous sources say atleast 10 years, however based on their long pregnancy period, the fact that they can hibernate between 5-7 months a year, I imagine what must be a slow growth rate typical of highland critters, and the fact that a close relative; the fire salamander (Salamandra Salamandra) has been recorded living for more than 50 years. I would imagine that this species is quite long-lived as well and I wouldn't be surprised to learn that it can live for decades.