The Research Project


The Alpine Salamander (Salamandra atra) is a pitch black amphibian, that lives in Alpine regions at altitudes between 600-2400m. It measures up to 14cm in length and lives up to fifteen years. Its specific adaption to the harsh alpine environment manifests its remarkable position as a viviparous amphibian, which does not require an aquatic ecosystem for reproduction. The Alpine Salamander is endangered and strictly protected according to the European FFH directive (Annex IV). Hence, efforts to research its habitat and ecology, as well as measures for its conservation, have highest priority.

Despite its central role in the Alpine ecosystem our actual academic record is small. In fact we know not enough about its distribution in the Alps, its habitat, and most importantly its ecology. In order to resolve this shortcoming this project explores the population and distribution of the Alpine Salamander in the Austrian Alps.

The main goal is to map occurrence, population- size and development of the Alpine Salamander.
Here we will take two approaches. First, we will establish an oral history of Alpine Salamander observations in the past 50 years by conducting interviews in the local community, such as alpinists, farmers, Nationalpark staff, mineral collectors, and hunters to preserve their well-versed local knowledge of the Alpine Salamander. Second we will check these regions for Alpensalamander observations ourselves to explore their habitat and their ecology. We will also include other amphibians like the Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) to investigate the relationship among these species. These data will be collected and disseminated on our webportal The project will be carried out at the University of Salzburg in collaboration with several national parks, schools and research institutions accross Europe.

What would we and our Alps be without the salamanders!

Master theses:

The following master theses have been written in the framework of the Alpine Salamander project at the University of Salzburg:

  • Pichlmüller Florian (2012): Skin swabs of fire salamander larvae – evaluation of a new nondestructive DNA sampling method.
  • Straub Christina (2012): Salamandra salamandra populations in Salzburg and Upper Austria: an investigation of population boundaries.
  • Schauer Julia (2011): Distribution of the Fire Salamander on the mountains Heuberg, Gaisberg and Gurlspitze in Salzburg, Austria. Master Thesis Julia Schauer, Map of the analyzed streams: Study area Julia
  • Meikl Magdalena (2010): Collection of Fire Salamander (Salamandra salamandra) distribution data in Austria using a new, community based approach. Master Thesis Magdalena Meikl
  • Reinthaler-Lottermoser Ursula (2010): Analysis of the distribution of the Alpine Salamander in Austria using a new, community based approach. Master Thesis Uschi Reinthaler
  • Widauer Andreas (2010): Alpensalamander Schulprojekt.


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