The salamander was a mythical creature before it was a real one: the word salamander means a legendary lizard that both survived-in and could extinguish fire. A creature that the Ancient Greeks, including Aristotle, appeared to readily believe in.
No one knows how the term salamander transferred from a mythical fire-dwelling monster to the small amphibious animals it applies to today, but I have a theory. Perhaps the sight of salamanders like Luristan newt—charcoal-black and flame-orange—caused people in the seventeenth century to lend the name of myth to the taxa.
Native to a tiny river region in the Zagros mountians of Iran, the Luristan newt Neurergus kaiseri stuns everyone who works with it.
“It’s one of the most beautiful amphibians in the world, and a spectacular animal to see in person,” says Nate Nelson, curator of amphibians, reptiles, and fish at the Sedgwick County Zoo in Witchita, Kansas. The zoo is involved in a breeding program for Luristan newts with hopes to one day release individuals back into the wild
The IUCN Red List has classified the Luristan newt as Critically Endangered with its population in increasing decline. In this case the animal’s beauty is its downfall.
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