They show the most diverse and exotic color patterns of any West Palearctic amphibian: fire salamanders. The six currently recognized species are characterized by a black ground color and yellow, orange and/or red spots and stripes. The completely black alpine salamanders are part of these species, although they lack the charismatic yellow spots. Surprisingly, the causes for this enormous variation in color patterns are not well understood.
As already indicated in post by ASA blogger Tariq Stark, fire salamanders are threatened. Populations in the Netherlands and Belgium are disappearing due to a recently-identified fungal disease. We currently do not know how far this fungus will spread, and the impact it will have on salamander populations. Throughout the distribution of most fire salamander species, unfortunately other threats can be observed, too, often related to land use change or loss of breeding streams or ponds. Disappearance of these iconic amphibians would be catastrophic; they do not only present intrinsic value, but also form a significant part of local food chains. On the verge of these potential changes it is extremely important to document these animals in an extensive way.
Wouter Beukema and Monne Tuinhout, a herpetologist and a professional photographer, have taken up the task to create a photo book about fire salamanders throughout their distribution, in collaboration with the RAVON Foundation (Reptile, Amphibian and Fish Conservation Netherlands). Being childhood friends, they now team up again to portray fire salamander diversity, habitats and the scientists and conservationists who work with these species in an innovative and comprehensive way. To achieve this goal, they have started a crowd funding campaign. While support for the campaign is increasing, they still need every bit of help they can get to realize this initiative!
Check out the Indiegogo crowd funding campaign and Facebook page of the project.