Gallipato: what is it, characteristics and curiosities

Amphibians are amazing animals, as they were the first vertebrates to colonize the mainland and they have extraordinary characteristics that make them special. If you are curious about this type of animal, in this article we focus on an amphibian that has a wide distribution in the Iberian Peninsula: the gallipat.

What is a gallipato and its characteristics

Pleurodeles waltl (Michahelles, 1830), commonly known as gallipato, is the largest species of urodel amphibian that exists in Europe. As for the gallipato family, this amphibian is the largest representative of the Salamandridae family, that is, it is from the same family as salamanders .

Apart from the above, these are the main characteristics of gallipats :

  • It is a very large species of amphibian , with a size that can reach 31 centimeters in length for males and about 29 centimeters for females, although specimens bred in captivity only reach between 15 and 25 centimeters.
  • Being a urodelo , this species maintains its tail after going through the larval stage.
  • The length of its tail represents between 46 and 55% of the total length and is laterally compressed for better mobility in the water.
  • It has short limbs with different numbers of fingers between them, as it has four fingers on the front hands and five on the back.
  • Its head is wide and very flattened , with a small sac or gular or vocal fold and small, super-oriented eyes together with a round pupil.
  • It has a smooth and very slippery skin during the aquatic phase, but that changes its appearance in the terrestrial phase and adopts a rough, warty and rough skin, always showing a grainy nature.
  • It also has tubercles distributed in rows on the sides of the body.
  • It can have a very variable coloration, encompassing black, dark brown, grayish or even yellowish tones, but it is commonly olive brown or gray with irregular black spots, and lateral rows of about 7 to 10 orange or yellow spots . However, the belly is always lighter than the rest of the body regardless of the color of your body.

It is a kind of Iberian-Maghreb endemism, so it is widely distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula , especially in the central and southern part, and with the exception of the northeastern area and the Cantabrian area, as well as living in the north and west areas. from Morocco .

This species shows 2 phases throughout the year, one is terrestrial and the other is aquatic, with variations in the duration of each one. However, it is common to find them in humid areas and with nearby bodies of water, since it has a certain preference to reproduce in large and long-lasting aquatic areas, with stagnant waters and with little or no current , such as wells, cisterns, cisterns, abandoned pools and, less commonly, in fountains.

They are nocturnal and discreet animals , so during the day they tend to stay in hidden areas where they go unnoticed, while, with the arrival of night, they show greater activity, frequenting the banks and even land areas, but always close to the water . During these hours, they are dedicated to looking for food, whether they are aquatic invertebrates or small vertebrates (amphibian larvae, fish, …) or, also, decomposing prey.

Gallipat breathing

This animal presents a cutaneous repair or pulmonary respiration , since it has adult lungs, through which they take the necessary oxygen every time they reach the surface, especially in hot times.

Learn more about these types of respiration with these other GreenEcology articles about 16 animals that breathe through the skin ( skin respiration) and +105 animals that breathe through the lungs (lung respiration).

Once the characteristics of the gallipat have been explained and the qualities of their habitats, we focus on how the gallipats reproduce :

  1. The reproduction process occurs in water , preferably in large, deep areas with little current, and normally occurs at the end of the last frosts, conditional on the beginning of the rainy season, that is, towards the beginning of spring.
  2. The male develops nuptial calluses on the forearms and begins the amplexus, which can last from hours to days; As an alternative to the amplexus, the male may also perform a tail wave in front of the female as a prelude.
  3. The male is placed under the female and expels a spermatophore ( sperm containing capsule), being able to pass up to 6-7 spermatophores, which the female reaches with her cloaca to fertilize the eggs.
  4. A female can lay between 300 and 1300 eggs , either individually or in small groups.
  5. After hatching, the larval phase lasts about three months, where the larvae reach about 10 centimeters. After about a year of life they reach sexual maturity.
Curiosities about the gallipato

To finish getting to know these amphibians, we are going to comment on some of the curiosities of gallipats . For example, despite the fact that at first glance it seems a non-dangerous animal, we can wonder if the gallipat is poisonous or not, since they have relatives who are. And the answer to this question is yes.

The defense strategy of the gallipato is very peculiar. This is based on the ribs of the gallipato ; When potential predators of this species approach, bite or try to eat it, this amphibian projects the sharp ends of its ribs out of its body through glandular areas of its skin, which excrete toxins, so that they turn into poisonous little needles. In this way, they inject toxins into the mouth of the predator that has been able to bite them and causes their flight.

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