There are two kinds of salamanders in Solterra: the type commonly referred to as water salamanders, who are a typical amphibian like frogs, and those known as fire salamanders, which can produce light and heat. Either may be referred to simply as "salamanders," but since the two types are very different, gryphs will often need to specify whether they are referring to fire or water salamanders or risk confusing others.
Fire salamanders are similar in shape to water salamanders. They have a long, cylindrical body with four legs protruding from the sides at right angles that barely raise the body off the ground, and a long tail tapering to a point. Their heads are wide and wedge-shaped with a rounded snout, and eyes are placed wide on either side of the head. No ears are visible, though they hear by way of recessed eardrums on either side of their heads, set behind and slightly above the eyes. Their skin is smooth like a water salamander, but typically remains dry. Fire salamanders have the ability to swim, but do not need to do so in order to remain healthy as many water salamanders do. In the wild their skin is typically black to dark red or brown, fading to a lighter shade on the underside, with bright spotted markings in red, yellow, orange, or occasionally white.
Fire salamanders are so called because of their ability to produce heat and light. There was once a myth that fire salamanders were born in fire and not harmed by it, but in modern times that has been thoroughly disproved. Anyone who lives near fire salamanders is carefully informed that the myth is false, or else never told the old myth at all, in order to avoid needless risk to the salamanders.
The heat and light is produced by a chemical reaction within the salamander's body. Two chemicals are produced and stored in separate glands, and when mixed they produce heat and light. Typically the salamander's body mixes them in small, controlled amounts near the markings on a salamander's skin, causing them to glow and the heat to spread throughout its body. This light can be used to communicate with others of its species, attract a mate, or attract flying insects, which are its main prey. If the chemicals are mixed in an uncontrolled manner, usually when a predator attacks the salamander and ruptures the glands that store the chemicals, then they produce quite a bit of heat, enough to burn the predator and deter them from attacking that species again. The glow and its bold coloration therefore also serves as a warning to predators.
Fire salamanders lack the Spark and are generally docile. They move slowly and do not attack anything they feel threatens them, preferring to run and hide or rely on their warning coloration to protect them. They typically live in temperate climates, though may be found in colder regions than water salamanders due to their ability to produce heat. They are somewhat solitary creatures, not seeking out others of their kind except to mate, but show no aversion to being near others of their kind at other times. It is nevertheless recommended to house captive ones separately, especially since it is difficult to determine their gender until they are ready to mate.
Fire salamanders mate once annually, during the spring. Females lay a cluster of 5-20 eggs, which will be hidden in a cool, damp place, like a rock cleft or rotting log. Females leave their eggs immediately, abandoning the young to hatch and fend for themselves. The young can produce heat and light shortly after hatching, affording them the same protection as the adults.
Gryphs have domesticated fire salamanders and bred them for a wider variety of colors and patterns, including bases in yellow, rust or cream, along with markings in light blue. A particular fancy variant has the base and markings in nearly the same color, typically yellow, so that the markings are barely visible until they glow when the salamander produces light. Some salamanders have also been bred to produce a level of heat that's pleasing to gryphs, and therefore have medical uses. These can be laid on sore muscles in order to relax them and promote healing, or placed on chilled extremities in order to warm them. If there is nothing in the vicinity to startle these salamanders, they are often content to remain where they are placed. Other salamanders have been bred to produce a brighter light, in order to serve as a light source in gryph dens. All varieties also serve as a useful form of pest removal, since they naturally attract and consume flying insects.