PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY PAUL D STEWART / SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY
Fire Salamander. Woodcut From Munster's Cosmographia 1560. Pliny the Elder (A.D. 23â79) described it as "an animal like a lizard in shape and with a body starred all over; it never comes out except during heavy showers and disappears the moment the weather becomes clear." This may be the golden Alpine salamander (Salamandra atra aurorae) of Europe that has golden spots on its back or some subspecies of the similar fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra). Pliny noted the salamander was toxic and could put out fire with their cold bodies, a feature that was seized on by medieval scholars and became part of the lore that they could come out of flames. This is often explained by the fact that salamanders may hibernate in woodpiles and would emerge as the logs were thrown on the fire.
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