dcsimg

Description

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Tail cylindrical, shorter than body with head. Conspicuous parotoid glands behind eyes are pigmented. Dorsal and lateral skin black, with large yellow to orange spots and/or bands. Yellow pattern varies among subspecies, although it is not entirely reliably for subspecies identification. Belly skin black or brownish. Females generally larger than males and possess relatively shorter extremities and tail. Male's cloaca much more swollen than female's cloaca.

Size: up to 250 mm, sometimes almost 300 mm.

The systematics of the genus Salamandra is in progress. Some forms earlier recognized as subspecies of the species S. salamandra have acquired specific rank.

This is the first species from which Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal) infections have been identified (Martel et al. 2013).

This species was featured as News of the Week on 24 June 2019:

Although Fire Salamanders are assumed to be an aposematic species, where bright colors are viewed by potential predators as warning of toxicity, the costs associated with the honesty of their signaling and predator learning behavior has not been quantified. Preißler et al. (2019) tested whether the alkaloid content matched yellow coloration in a highly variable Fire Salamander population in Solling, Germany, (Salamandra salamandra terrestris) to determine if the species had an honest signal of toxicity. They found that the amount of yellow patterning did not correlate with the amount of toxins in individuals, as would be expected for a true aposematic species. The authors also found that the population was sexually dichromatic, with males being more yellow than females. Although these findings could be explained by sexual selection, statistical analysis of color variation indicated that site specific female choice was not a factor. These findings indicate that other, yet to be verified, biological processes are playing a role in the yellow coloration of Fire Salamanders, and that the toxins are produced by conserved bioactivity (Written by Ann T. Chang).

This species was featured as News of the Week on 17 August 2020:

The pathogenic amphibian fungus known as Bsal (Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans) may be the most potent amphibian disease and poses extreme risk to natural populations, especially in salamanders. First detected in Fire Salamanders (Salamandra salamandra) in extreme southeastern Netherlands and adjacent Belgium and reported in 2013, it has spread to western Germany (with new reports from Bavaria), where it is having devastating effects. An entire issue of the journal Salamandra (2020, vol 56, issue 3, open access and available as PDF) is devoted to Bsal research centered in Germany. Salamander populations have essentially disappeared from the northern Eiffel region and are threatened in the southern Eiffel and Ruhr regions. Bsal has been present in Germany for at least 16 years and has been found in laboratory populations of the Common Frog, Rana temporaria, and field populations of the Great Crested Newt, Triturus cristatus. It is known to infect salamandrid species from southeast Asia, which appear to have been the source of the European outbreaks via pet trade importation. The goal in highlighting this important set of papers as stated by the editors "must go beyond documenting declines towards understanding spatio-temporal disease dynamics and the factors influencing the spread and impact of Bsal in different situations." In light of the seriousness of the Bsal threat in Germany, the authors' common goal is a national Bsal Action Plan, which would be of great importance for the international community of amphibian biologists and for the public (Written by David B. Wake).

References

  • Freytag, G.E. (). Feuersalamander und Alpensalamander (Die Neue Brehm Bücherei Bd. ). A. Ziemsen, Wittenberg-Lutherstadt.
  • Martel, A., Spitzen-van der Sluijs, A., Blooi, M., Bert, W., Ducatelle, R., Fisher, M.C., Woeltjes, A., Bosman, W., Chiers, K., Bossuyt, F., Pasmans, F. (). ''Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans sp. nov. causes lethal chytridiomycosis in amphibians.'' PNAS, (), -.
  • Thiesmeier, B. (). Okologie des Feuersalamanders. Westarp Wissenschaften, Essen.

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Distribution and Habitat

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The species is distributed from the Iberian Peninsula to Iran and from North Africa to North Germany. The genus consists of variable forms, the taxonomy of which has not been revised as yet. Some of the former subspecies of Salamandra salamandra are now recognized as separate species and the separation of more species can be expected. Populations of S. s. salamandra from Turkey are genetically closely related to the S. s. infraimmaculata group. The species inhabits mainly deciduous and mixed, sometimes conifer forests. Populations inhabiting anthropogenic landscapes and unforested habitats can be considered, as a rule, as relicts of formerly forest dwellers. The spotted coloration of this salamander seems to play two roles: cryptic, when the spots on black background allow the animal to hide on the forest floor, where there are alternate spots of sun and shadow, and aposematic, where bright yellow spots indicate poisonous skin secretions.

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

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Over a large part of its range, S. salamandra seems to be not a rare species, but its abundance declines in many regions. In unwooded areas the species is generally rarer than in forests.

Females are active in daytime during the breeding period; afterwards adults are active at twilight, spending the day under logs, snags, stones, rodent burrows and holes. During rainy weather salamanders regularly leave their hiding places by day. The appearance of active salamanders on the land surface in day time indicates the approach of rain. Hibernation, typically in groups, occurs in the northern part of the range, whereas in the south (e.g., in Israel) activity ceases during hot summer period. Similarly, in central Europe reproduction occurs between spring and autumn, whereas at the south of the range it is confined to winter. Mating takes place on land, and male-male combats for a female often takes place. The species is typically viviparous, and the female releases the young into water, usually shallow brooks. The number of larvae per female, as well as their stage at birth time, varies among subspecies. Salamandra salamandra bernardezi and, sometimes, S. s. fastuosa give birth to completely metamorphosed young salamanders. Larval development takes several months, but in many cases they overwinter and finish their metamorphosis in the next year. Most larvae occur in fishless parts of brooks, which is caused by fish predation. As a rule, larvae start active feeding just after birth. Age changes in diet during ontogeny are minor and related mainly to the use of larger prey. Larvae consume primarily upon rheophilous invertebrates: Gammaridae, larval Ephemeroptera, Diptera, etc. In semi-flowing waters, typical limnophilous preys (e.g., Diaptomidae) are included in their diet. Adults do not consume the small preys that are eaten by juveniles: Acarina, Geophylomorpha, and Collembola. However, they eat large Mollusca, Myriapoda (Oniscomorpha, Polydesmida and Juliformia), Coleoptera, etc.

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Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors

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In historical perspective, the range seemed to be constricted, mainly due to deforestation. In some places (e.g., in Ukrainian Carpathians) declines of populations take place due to anthropogenic influences.Although the IUCN status has not been updated, since 2010, there has been a precipitous decline in the species bringing it close to extinction by 2013. A captive breeding problem resulted in 49% of the captive animals dying of, then, unknown causes. It was later determined that a newly identified chytrid fungus was infecting the species, causing anorexia, apathy, and ataxia then death within 7 - 27 days (depending on method of exposure). The new fungus was named Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans and is not known to infect frogs (Martel et al. 2013).

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Relation to Humans

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Habitat destruction, pollution, and collecting for commercial purposes (mainly pet trade) are the main threats for the populations. Destruction of forests and overcollecting cause the declines of some populations.

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Lifespan, longevity, and ageing

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Maximum longevity: 24 years (captivity) Observations: Anecdotal evidence, which may or may not be true, suggests these animals may live up to 50 years. It is generally classified as viviparous.
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Untitled

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Traditional folklore held that salamanders could survive in fire; the term "salamander" actually comes from an Arab term for "lives in fire." The Fire Salamander in particular owes its name to these myths. The stories probably originated because salamanders, including S. salamandra, were frequently seen to crawl out of logs tossed onto cooking and campfires. Of course, their thin permeable skin offers no such protection.

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Rose Sydlowski, Michigan State University
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Conservation Status

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Better legislation has helped to reduce the numbers of Fire Salamanders that are caught in the wild for both the pet trade and for research.

Perhaps more of a threat is the crucial issue of habitat preservation. Like all amphibians, the Fire Salamander is susceptible to pollutants in its environment. Habitat fragmentation is also a potential problem since these animals are so loyal to their home ranges and overwintering sites. The ecological requirements of the species must be taken into consideration for any habitat protection effort (Griffiths 1996).

CITES: no special status

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species: least concern

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Life Cycle

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Development - Life Cycle: metamorphosis

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Benefits

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The Fire Salamander has been a popular species in the pet trade, and has also been utilized as an animal model in research (Griffiths 1996).

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Trophic Strategy

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The diet of S. salamandra consists of invertebrate prey and is generally a mixture of the most abundant species available in the salamander's particular habitat. These include soft-bodied prey such as earthworms and slugs, and harder-bodied prey such as flies, millipedes, centipedes, and beetles among others. Young Fire Salamanders seem to imprint on their preferred prey types during the first few weeks following metamorphosis from the larval stage to the adult.

S. salamandra appears to employ different hunting strategies for different situations. When some light is available, it uses prey movement as its cue and ignores stationary prey. However, when hunting in the dark, it uses olfaction as its primary cue since vision is impaired. In this situation it will attack prey, if the prey is stationary, as long as it can detect the odor of the prey item.

Animal Foods: insects; terrestrial non-insect arthropods; mollusks; terrestrial worms

Primary Diet: carnivore (Insectivore , Molluscivore , Vermivore)

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Distribution

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The Fire Salamander occurs in central and southern Europe, with parts of its range extending into northern Africa and the Middle East.

Biogeographic Regions: palearctic (Native )

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Habitat

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S. salamandra prefers woodland habitats, especially those with much shade and nearby ponds or streams for breeding. It spends much time beneath rocks or logs, or hiding in crevices to stay protected and moist.

Habitat Regions: temperate

Terrestrial Biomes: forest

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Life Expectancy

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Average lifespan
Status: captivity:
24 years.

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Morphology

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Salamandra salamandra is the largest species in the family Salamandridae, ranging from 15 to 25cm long, with some individuals exceeding 30cm. Its body is black with yellow or orange markings that occur in patterns varying from discrete spots to large splotches or bands. The underside is usually dark grey with fewer spots. Body length exceeds tail length, and the limbs are stout. Females tend to be slightly larger than males, but little other sexual dimorphism exists.

Range length: 15 to 30 cm.

Other Physical Features: ectothermic ; bilateral symmetry ; poisonous

Sexual Dimorphism: female larger

Average mass: 19.1 g.

Average basal metabolic rate: 0.00857 W.

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Reproduction

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Fertilization is internal via deposition of a spermatophore by the male. The female may retain the sperm for some time before ovulation and fertilization occur. This helps to account for the long gestation between the peak of mating season in the summer and the birth of the larvae in the following spring, after the winter hibernation. This seasonal pattern shifts in the warmer Middle Eastern populations, where breeding occurs October-January, with larval birth occuring the following November-December, after the period of inactiviy that occurs during the arid summer. Breeding occurs on land, and the females deposit their young in water.

S. salamandra is considered viviparous. The female retains the developing eggs, and the embryos derive their nourishment from the yolk. At birth the larvae are usually quite advanced, although some populations deposit young that have already metamorphosed.

Fire Salamanders may live in excess of 14 years; therefore, females have the chance to breed multiple times during their lives.

Breeding interval: Breeds once per year

Key Reproductive Features: iteroparous ; seasonal breeding ; gonochoric/gonochoristic/dioecious (sexes separate); sexual ; fertilization (Internal ); viviparous ; sperm-storing ; delayed fertilization

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Sydlowski, R. 2000. "Salamandra salamandra" (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed April 27, 2013 at http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/accounts/information/Salamandra_salamandra.html
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Endemic range

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Salamandra salamandra almanzoris is a salamander subspecies endemic to the Iberian conifer forests of Southwest Europe, more particularly the Iberian Peninsula. These forests have several dominant pine species including Pinus pinaster and P. umbellicata; broadleaf canopy species may also occur such as Holm oak. The geology landscape consists of a very complex lithological composition. Mesozoic dolomite and calimestone predominate in the eastern massifs; other important substrates are sandstone, marl, and conglomerates..
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World Wildlife Fund. 2012. Iberian conifer forests. Topic ed. C.Michael Hogan. Ed.-in-chief Cutler Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth, National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington DC
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Fire salamander

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The fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is a common species of salamander found in Europe.

It is black with yellow spots or stripes to a varying degree; some specimens can be nearly completely black while on others the yellow is dominant. Shades of red and orange may sometimes appear, either replacing or mixing with the yellow according to subspecies.[2] This bright coloration is highly conspicuous and acts to deter predators by honest signalling of its toxicity (aposematism)[3] Fire salamanders can have a very long lifespan; one specimen lived for more than 50 years in Museum Koenig, a German natural history museum.

Habitat, behavior and diet

Fire salamanders live in central Europe forests and are more common in hilly areas. They prefer deciduous forests since they like to hide in fallen leaves and around mossy tree trunks. They need small brooks or ponds with clean water in their habitat for the development of the larvae. Whether on land or in water, fire salamanders are inconspicuous. They spend much of their time hidden under wood or other objects. They are active in the evening and the night, but on rainy days they are active in the daytime as well.[4]

The diet of the fire salamander consists of various insects, spiders, earthworms and slugs, but they also occasionally eat newts and young frogs. In captivity, they eat crickets, mealworms, waxworms and silkworm larvae. Small prey will be caught within the range of the vomerine teeth or by the posterior half of the tongue, to which the prey adheres. It weighs about 40 grams. The fire salamander is one of Europe's largest salamanders[5] and can grow to be 15–25 centimetres (5.9–9.8 in) long.[6]

Reproduction

Males and females look very similar except during the breeding season when the most conspicuous difference is a swollen gland around the male's vent. This gland produces the spermatophore, which carries a sperm packet at its tip. The courtship happens on land. After the male becomes aware of a potential mate, he confronts her and blocks her path. The male rubs her with his chin to express his interest in mating, then crawls beneath her and grasps her front limbs with his own in amplexus. He deposits a spermatophore on the ground, then attempts to lower the female's cloaca into contact with it. If successful, the female draws the sperm packet in and her eggs are fertilized internally. The eggs develop internally and the female deposits the larvae into a body of water just as they hatch. In some subspecies, the larvae continue to develop within the female until she gives birth to fully formed metamorphs. Breeding has not been observed in neotenic fire salamanders.

In captivity, females may retain sperm long-term and use the stored sperm later to produce another clutch. This behavior has not been observed in the wild, likely due to the ability to obtain fresh sperm and the degradation of stored sperm.[7]

Toxicity

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Samandarin structure

The fire salamander's primary alkaloid toxin, samandarin, causes strong muscle convulsions and hypertension combined with hyperventilation in all vertebrates. The poison glands of the fire salamander are concentrated in certain areas of the body, especially around the head and the dorsal skin surface. The coloured portions of the animal's skin usually coincide with these glands. Compounds in the skin secretions may be effective against bacterial and fungal infections of the epidermis; some are potentially dangerous to human life.

Distribution

Video of a Fire Salamander in its natural habitat in Austria

Fire salamanders are found in most of southern and central Europe. They are most commonly found at altitudes between 250 metres (820 ft) and 1,000 metres (3,300 ft), only rarely below (in Northern Germany sporadically down to 25 metres (82 ft)). However, in the Balkans or Spain they are commonly found in higher altitudes as well.

Subspecies

Several subspecies of the fire salamander are recognized. Most notable are the subspecies fastuosa and bernadezi, which are the only viviparous subspecies – the others are ovoviviparous.

  • S. s. alfredschmidti
  • S. s. almanzoris
  • S. s. bejarae
  • S. s. bernardezi
  • S. s. beschkovi
  • S. s. crespoi
  • S. s. fastuosa (or bonalli) – yellow-striped fire salamander
  • S. s. gallaica – Galician fire salamander
  • S. s. gigliolii
  • S. s. morenica
  • S. s. salamandra – spotted fire salamander, nominate subspecies
  • S. s. terrestris – barred fire salamander
  • S. s. werneri

Some former subspecies have been lately recognized as species for genetic reasons.

Gallery

References

  1. ^ Kuzmin, S.; Papenfuss, T.; Sparreboom, M.; Ugurtas, I.H.; Anderson, S.; Beebee, T.; Denoël, M.; Andreone, F.; Anthony, B.; Schmidt, B.; Ogrodowczyk, A.; Ogielska, M.; Bosch, J.; Tarkhnishvili, D.; Ishchenko, V. (2009). "Salamandra salamandra". IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. 2009: e.T59467A11928351. doi:10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009.RLTS.T59467A11928351.en.
  2. ^ Francis, Eric T.B. (1934). "The anatomy of the Salamander". Oxford: Clarendon Press. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  3. ^ Caspers, Barbara A. (30 June 2020). "Developmental costs of yellow colouration in fire salamanders and experiments to test the efficiency of yellow as a warning colouration". Amphibia-Reptilia. 41 (3): 373–385. doi:10.1163/15685381-bja10006.
  4. ^ Tanner, Vasco M.; Wood, Stephen L. (1958). "Salamander". The Great Basin Naturalist. Phovo (Utah): Brigham Young University. pp. 97ff. Retrieved January 12, 2013.
  5. ^ Fire salamander. sossalamander.nl
  6. ^ Griffiths, R (1996). Newts and Salamanders of Europe. London: Academic Press.
  7. ^ Steinfartz, S.; Stemshorn, K.; Kuesters, D.; Tautz, D. (30 November 2005). "Patterns of multiple paternity within and between annual reproduction cycles of the fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) under natural conditions". Journal of Zoology. 268 (1): 1–8. doi:10.1111/j.1469-7998.2005.00001.x.
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Fire salamander: Brief Summary

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The fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is a common species of salamander found in Europe.

It is black with yellow spots or stripes to a varying degree; some specimens can be nearly completely black while on others the yellow is dominant. Shades of red and orange may sometimes appear, either replacing or mixing with the yellow according to subspecies. This bright coloration is highly conspicuous and acts to deter predators by honest signalling of its toxicity (aposematism) Fire salamanders can have a very long lifespan; one specimen lived for more than 50 years in Museum Koenig, a German natural history museum.

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