Sirenidae – Sirens

Unique in having small forelimbs and no hind limbs & external gills; only salamanders known to eat plants

In the southeastern United States, a unique and lesser-known group of salamanders known as sirens, or siren salamanders, grace the waters with their presence, embodying a fascinating blend of distinctive features and ecological importance. These aquatic denizens are characterized by their elongated, slender bodies, adorned with long tail fins, and a remarkable ability to respire through their skin and the lining of their mouths, a trait reminiscent of plethodontid salamanders.

Sirenid salamanders have evolved to excel in aquatic environments, bearing gills and a streamlined body shape that optimizes their navigation through the watery realms they call home. Although they attain substantial sizes, with some species stretching to impressive lengths of up to 70 cm (28 inches), they maintain a more slender build compared to their counterparts in larger salamander families like Cryptobranchidae.

As carnivores by nature, sirens contribute significantly to the dynamics of their ecosystems by feasting upon insects, worms, and various small invertebrates. Their role as predators plays a pivotal part in maintaining the balance of local food webs, highlighting their importance in the intricate web of life within their aquatic habitats.