The mythological salamander is a generally lizard-like creature which has been ascribed many traits and features, mainly in relation to fire. The basic traits of the mythological salamander are:

  • They resemble lizards
  • They live and can survive in fire

Other traits that they sometimes have include:

  • Extreme toxicity
  • Heat-resistant blood
  • No digestive system
  • Feeds on fire
  • Rarely breathes
  • Produces wool
  • Build cocoons

In what way could a mythological salamander evolve on Earth?

  • $\begingroup$ There is already a question about creatures eating "lava" worldbuilding.stackexchange.com/questions/93205/… $\endgroup$
    – user76853
    Jul 11, 2020 at 23:01
  • $\begingroup$ Also there are plenty of animals which produce wool or build cacoons are toxic.. Ever heard of sheep, frogs or butterflies? $\endgroup$
    – user76853
    Jul 11, 2020 at 23:02
  • $\begingroup$ And there are already plenty of questions about animals resistant to fire. So your question can be entirely answered just by reading older identical questions. Yours is just 4 different questions into one... All of which have been already answered in different questions. Find a better hobby. $\endgroup$
    – user76853
    Jul 11, 2020 at 23:04
  • $\begingroup$ @Hol hoe Many 'anatomically correct' questions involve mixtures of traits that already exist or have been discussed here already $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2020 at 8:27
  • $\begingroup$ Then they are indeed a set of useless questions made to score points and waste time... Find a better hobby. $\endgroup$
    – user76853
    Jul 14, 2020 at 19:35

2 Answers 2


Resemble lizards is easy. They could evolve from lizards, no problem. Might be more issues with having them evolve from amphibians (I think they would have to basically become lizards on the way) so let's take lizards as a starting point. They might start by finding an advantage in hunting during forest fires---the fires scare up prey, which the lizard can then eat. In order to avoid burns they would have to keep moving (like hares jumping over field burnings). One can imagine a lizard getting enough advantage from the easy prey that it would adapt to spend more time in and around fires, and thus develop thicker skin, or skin that doesn't burn easily. I see two approaches for "rarely breathes". First, it could act like a mudskipper, and basically carry a store of air with it into the fire, the come back out when the store runs out. The other option is to make it really good at pulling oxygen from the air---in order for the fire to burn there has to be a certain oxygen content (around 16%, I think), and it could adapt to breathe in the low-oxygen environment. Toxicity is a bit tougher. (Why would it need to be poisonous or venomous if there's no competition? Not a lot of things hang out mid-fire, and I imagine that that lack of competition is part of what drove it there in the first place). Perhaps a common food is toxic, and it just excretes those toxins through its skin (like the pitohui bird). As for heat-resistant blood, if the blood had a really high specific heat it could help the salamander regulate temperature, as it would take the blood a long time to warm up. Not sure how that would work chemically, but it could plausibly evolve. No digestive system---if you want it to be a vertebrate, tough luck. If you want to copy the six legs of the mythical salamander, I guess maybe it's a really weird insect? Feeds on fire---similar problem. The energy needs to be in a useful form to the body, and fire just isn't, really. Super-basic-how-animals-get-energy is they eat stuff, which they then turn into fuel to burn later when they need energy. Turning the fire into fuel is not going to work super well, because it's already undergoing combustion. Wool/cocoons. These could be the same thing---maybe it produces a cocoon, made out of "wool", for it to hibernate between fires? When the fire returns, it burns the cocoon and wakes up the salamander, which then hunts until the fire's mostly out, then it cocoons again. I think this would work, but I'm only a dilettante in biology so I might have made errors somewhere.


The mythological salamander could have evolved from an aquatic newt. They might evolve to need less oxygen, to avoid drowning in anoxic pools. This could lead to these newts not needing oxygen at all. Due to the lack of need for oxygen, their skin might thicken and grow scales to protect their body. Their environment may dry out, leading to the efts having to travel further to find a pool. The dryness would also lead to more fires happening. The newt could adapt by producing insulating substances in the blood, that can then be secreted on the skin. This would protect against injuries from the fire. They may also become more able to survive at high tempuratures. This could lead to the newt being able to conduct heat through the body, allowing it to gain energy from heat moving through the body. To make this more efficient, they might evolve to turn their gut into a sort of engine, which could extract energy from the heat flowing through the body with high efficiency. Due to increased predation in pools, the tadpoles might be protected by retaining them in the uterus, and becoming viviparous. This could lead to them gerontomorphic and reproducing as efts, which would make the adult stage unnecessary. This could lead to the gut-engine losing digestive function, and becoming purely an engine. To avoid unwanted heat-loss, they may evolve air-trapping fibres around their body. They might also be threatened by predators that can withstand fire. To avoid this, they might secrete toxins throughout their body, to avoid being eaten. However, this may not deter smaller predators, which would be killed outright by the poison, and so they may evolve to produce a toxic mist in their lungs, which could be exhaled to poison predators from a distance. Also, they might defend their young, by secreting a cocoon out of fibres to protect them from predators. These changes would create a mythological salamander

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    $\begingroup$ No matter what it's going to need oxygen. Without oxygen the biochemical reactions (cellular respiration!) necessary for complex life cannot occur. While there are animals that live in low-oxygen environments, they do so by pulling as much oxygen as they possibly can. The only organisms that live WITHOUT oxygen are extremely specialized bacteria. $\endgroup$
    – Sol
    Jul 11, 2020 at 22:23
  • $\begingroup$ @Sol Many animals (including humans) can in some way respire without oxygen $\endgroup$ Jul 12, 2020 at 8:31
  • $\begingroup$ @Icthys_King You're right; I was wrong in my earlier comment. However, there are extremely few animals that Never use oxygen. Animals that respire anaerobically ALSO respire aerobically. The only animal I can find that does not require oxygen to live is a salmon parasite, which leeches energy from its host (sciencemag.org/news/2020/02/…). While this is precedent for an animal existing anaerobically, I think that it is still insupportable as a basis for these salamanders, as they are necessarily more active than the salmon parasite. $\endgroup$
    – Sol
    Jul 12, 2020 at 22:13

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