When you’re talking about the salamander, you’re actually discussing a wide range of creatures.

The name salamander covers 550 species of amphibians, and there are so many salamanders in the world that they’re grouped into two different orders depending on whether the species is extant or extinct.

While the salamander might be one of the most unique animals in the world, all salamanders do possess one key trait: They all have the ability to regenerate lost body parts.

Where Are Salamanders Found?

Salamanders live in a wide range of habitats, but they’re most common in the United States. The U.S. is home to all but one extant species of salamander, in large part because of its varied climates throughout the country. Roughly 10% of all salamander species exist in the Appalachian Mountains of the eastern United States.

How Do Salamanders Affect Our Environment?

If you’re not a fan of insects, thank a salamander. Salamanders are one of the main reasons that insects don’t overrun the world. These amphibians eat insects such as beetles, ants and flies, suppressing their populations.

In turn, salamanders help the environment in its fight against global warming by consuming these insects and stopping them from releasing carbon into the environment, a process that occurs when insects eat fallen leaves. In short, these creatures are among the most unsung heroes of our environment.

Salamanders in Pop Culture

Contrary to what you might expect, the Geico gecko isn’t an example of a salamander, as geckos are lizards, while salamanders are amphibians. An example of a true salamander in pop culture is Charmander, one of the three starters in the first Pokemon games and among the most popular characters in the franchise to this day.

What Else Do Salamanders Eat?

Some salamanders opt to feast on mice, while others enjoy worms, slugs and snails. All salamanders are carnivores and don’t eat plants.

How Do Salamanders Move?

That depends on the species. Some salamanders travel on four legs, some travel on two legs and some have no legs at all.

How Long Have Salamanders Existed?

Some species of salamander date all the way back to the Jurassic age, existing at the same time as the dinosaurs. Individual salamanders have been known to live as long as 200 years.

Do All Salamanders Lay Eggs?

No. The vast majority of salamanders do lay eggs, but a few species give birth to their offspring, similar to mammals. Salamanders can lay up to 450 eggs at a time, depending on the species, and salamander eggs hatch underwater, as young salamanders only gain their legs after they have hatched.

How Has Climate Change Affected Salamanders?

Salamanders are cold-blooded animals, and many need to have cooler temperatures to thrive. While salamanders are not yet threatened by global warming, their populations have shrunk over time as climate change has increasingly affected the planet, causing scientists to hypothesize that these animals could be at risk.

However, in recent years, salamanders have shown an ability to adapt to harsher weather and make their skin more resistant to the drier conditions they now face. Salamanders require a water source nearby at all times, but today’s salamanders have shown that they can handle harsher conditions if necessary to survive.

Salamanders are among the most diverse and colorful creatures in our world, and it’s unquestioned that they play an important role in keeping our ecosystem in balance. What the future holds for them will play a large role in what the future holds for us as well.