Salamander is a common name of approximately 500 species of amphibians. They are typically characterized by their slender bodies, short noses, and long tails. All known fossils and extinct species fall under the order Caudata, while sometimes the extant species are grouped together as the Urodela. Most salamanders have four toes on their front legs and five on their rear legs. Their moist skin usually makes them reliant on habitats in or near water, or under some protection (e.g., moist ground), often in a wetland. Some salamander species are fully aquatic throughout life, some take to the water intermittently, and some are entirely terrestrial as adults. Unique among vertebrates, they are capable of regenerating lost limbs, as well as other body parts.
Mature salamanders generally have a ancestral tetrapod body form with a cylindrical trunk, four limbs and a long tail. Some species such as sirens and amphiumas have reduced or absent hindlimbs, giving them a more eel-like appearance. Most species have four clawless toes on the forelimbs and five on the hind limbs. The skin lacks scales and is moist and smooth to the touch, except in newts of the Salamandridae which may have velvety or warty skin that is dry to the touch. The skin may be drab or brightly colored, exhibiting various patterns of stripes, bars, spots, blotches or dots. Male newts become dramatically colored during the breeding season. Cave species dwelling in darkness lack pigmentation and have a translucent pink or pearlescent appearance.
Salamanders range in size from the minute salamanders, with a total length of 2.7 centimetres (1.1 in), including the tail, to the Chinese giant salamander which reaches 1.8 metres (5.9 ft) and weighs up to 65 kg (140 lb). Most, however, are between 10 centimetres (3.9 in) and 20 centimetres (7.9 in) in length.