Other Amphibian of the Week

Olm (Proteus anguinus)

photo by Arne Hodalič

Common Name: Olm or Blind Cave Salamander
Scientific Name: Proteus anguinus
Family: Proteidae
Location: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Italy, and Slovenia
Introduced: France
Size: 9 – 10 inches (23 – 25 cm), 11.8 inches (30 cm) max

The Olm is a bizarre creature that lurks under the surface of the Balkans. This weird salamander is found in underground caves and rivers and because of that, most of what is known about the it is from captive bred individuals in labs. The Olm is thought to be the longest living salamander and amphibian, capable of living over a hundred years. They are capable of living that long due to being able to slow down their metabolism. It is said that they can live off one meal for a decade. With the slow metabolism, they rarely move around. One individual was observed not moving for 7 years.

The Olm is highly adapted to life under ground. Their eyes are highly reduced but other senses are increased, kinda like Daredevil. They find their pray by any means including smell, taste, and sound through the dark underground world.

photo by Henk Wallays

It takes the Olm nearly 14 years to reach sexual maturity. After reaching sexual maturity, males start to defend their territory from other males. The females of the species will come into the male’s territory and the male starts to court the female. The male waves his tail in her face. After mating, the female goes off and finds a place to lay her eggs. After laying the eggs, the females protect them from predators.

There is one subspecies of olm. It is called the Black Olm (Proteus anguinus parkelj). Besides the fact that they are black, there are other differences between the two. The subspecies have more developed eyes compared to the regular one. It also has a smaller head and is found in Slovenia.

Black Olm by Arne Hodalič

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List categorizes the Olm as Vulnerable to Extinction.

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