Homeschool Science Lessons from the Salamander

May 26, 2009
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About 9 years ago, I was brutally made aware that I live in a state with critters that I thought only lived in the zoo.  I remember going to the zoo as a child and visiting the aquarium and reptile houses.  They had this strange looking frog that looked like a blob of mud with eyes that always intrigued me.  I always looked for him when we went to the zoo.  I knew just where his glass box house was.  Over the years and  time after time of seeing him, I remember thinking that my old friend, the blob of mud frog who lived at the zoo,  must live 100 years.   They also had a myriad of  brightly colored salamanders and strange looking lizards and brilliant fish.  They were nice to look at behind the glass. 

Many years later, as we were loading up our truck and trailer moving out of our rent house, my husband rescued me from a very large red and black slimy looking snake thing with legs and big eyes that was scurrying out of the garage too close to where I was.  The thing came out of my garage.  It looked like it escaped from the zoo–it was so amazing looking to be in a normal environment.  I realized that “normal environment” was now different to this Texas girl—

Here we have amazing looking salamanders and lizards of many shapes, sizes and colors.  My kids love to catch the blue tailed skink and other salamanders scurrying around outside. 

Here’s my run in with one such salamander recently:  I hate it when I forget something outside in the truck and need to go retrieve it at night…like the diaper bag or the book I finally get a chance to read.  My first thought is..”snakes” and my second thought is figuring out who can go retrieve my item from the truck for me.  The other night this was the scenario, only everyone was busy…so I braved the country outdoors, made my way down the porch steps on the rainy night only to be pained by that sinking feeling of something slithery scurrying right underneath where I just stepped.  I quickly got down the steps and hopped in the truck and then yelled…  No one heard me.  They were all busy inside but I wasn’t about to go back up the steps nor was I about to walk all the way around the house in the dark.  I was sure there was a snake lying just inside the dark shadow cast on the  front porch steps. 

 So I waited and yelled some more as this snake in my imagination kept growing larger and larger. 

Finally, a boy arrived and opened the front door to hear my declarations of “go get a flash light…I think there is a snake on the steps…” 

He came back quickly…the flash light batteries were dead.  That didn’t stop the boys from investigating only to find a …and this was their words…”ahhh, a cute little salamander, mom”. 

sciencesal

We looked up the salamanders in our State and found some interesting facts about this salamander called the Cave Salamander.

Cave salamanders may produce a noxious secretion from the tail if bothered, and when attacked they will coil their body around and tuck their head underneath the base of the tail, then wriggle the tail to distract the predator.  Using this common defensive strategy for many species, the cave salamander can regenerate the tail if part of it is broken off.

On a dark, rainy night with just the faint light of the window casting shadows on the front porch steps… this cute little cave salamander looks much like a very, scary snake who wants to strike his predator! 

Since then, we have found quite a number of interesting salamanders.