GALLIPATO: what is it, characteristics and curiosities - with PHOTOS

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Amphibians are amazing animals, as they were the first vertebrates to colonize the mainland and they have extraordinary characteristics that make them special. If you are curious about this type of animal, in this article we focus on an amphibian that has a wide distribution in the Iberian Peninsula: the gallipato.

If you have never heard of this amphibian and you have just discovered it, from Ecologist Verde we explain what is a gallipato, its characteristics and curiosities about the species. Did you know that they are from the salamander family and are the largest amphibian in Europe? Read on and find out more!

What is a gallipato and its characteristics

Pleurodeles waltl (Michahelles, 1830), commonly known as gallipato, is the largest species of urodel amphibian that exists in Europe. As for the gallipato family, this amphibian is the largest representative of the Salamandridae family, that is, it is from the same family as salamanders.

Apart from the above, these are the main characteristics of gallipats:

  • It is a kind of very large amphibian, with a size that can reach 31 centimeters in length for males and about 29 centimeters for females, although specimens bred in captivity only reach between 15 and 25 centimeters.
  • Being a urodel, this species maintains the tail after passing through the larval stage.
  • The length of its tail represents between 46 and 55% of the total length and is laterally compressed for better mobility in the water.
  • It has short limbs with different numbers of fingers between them, as it has four fingers on the front hands and five on the back.
  • His head is broad and very flattened, with a small sac or gular or vocal fold and small and super-oriented eyes together with a round pupil.
  • It has a smooth and very slippery skin during the aquatic phase, but that changes its appearance in the terrestrial phase and adopts a rough, warty and rough skin, always showing a grainy nature.
  • Also presents tubers arranged in rows on the sides of the body.
  • It can have a very variable coloration, encompassing black, dark brown, grayish or even yellowish tones, but it is commonly olive brown or gray with irregular black spots, and lateral rows of about 7 to 10 orange spots or yellow. However, the belly is always lighter than the rest of the body regardless of the color of your body.

Habitat of the gallipato

It is a kind of Iber-Maghreb endemism, which is why it is widely distributed throughout the Iberian Peninsula, especially in the central and southern part, and with the exception of the northeastern area and the Cantabrian area, as well as living in the areas north and west of Morocco.

This species shows 2 phases throughout the year, one is terrestrial and the other is aquatic, with variations in the duration of each one. However, it is common to find them in humid areas and with nearby bodies of water, since they have a certain preference to reproduce in large and long-lasting aquatic areas, with stagnant waters with little current or absent, such as wells, cisterns, cisterns, abandoned pools and, less commonly, in fountains.

Are nocturnal animals and discreet, so during the day they tend to remain in hidden areas where they go unnoticed, while, with the arrival of night, they show greater activity, frequenting the shores and even land areas, but always near the water. During these hours, they are dedicated to looking for food, whether they are aquatic invertebrates or small vertebrates (amphibian larvae, fish, …) or, also, decomposing prey.

Gallipat breathing

This animal has a skin repair or lung respiration, since it has lungs in adult phase, through which they take the necessary oxygen every time they reach the surface, especially in hot times.

Learn more about these types of respiration with these other Green Ecologist articles about 16 animals that breathe through the skin (skin respiration) and +105 animals that breathe through the lungs (lung respiration).

Reproduction of gallipat

Once we have explained what are the characteristics of the gallipat and the qualities of its habitats, we focus on how gallipats reproduce:

  1. The reproduction process occurs in water, preferably in large, deep areas with little current, and normally occurs at the end of the last frosts, conditional on the beginning of the rainy season, that is, towards the beginning of spring.
  2. The male develops bridal calluses in the forearms and begins the amplexus, which can last from hours to days; As an alternative to the amplexus, the male may also perform one ortail ndulation in front of the female as a prelude.
  3. The male stands under the female and ejects a spermatophore (capsule containing sperm), being able to pass up to 6-7 spermatophores, which the female reaches with her cloaca to fertilize the eggs.
  4. A female may deposit 300 to 1,300 eggs, either individually or in small groups.
  5. After hatching, the larval phase lasts about three months, where the larvae reach about 10 centimeters. After about a year of life they reach sexual maturity.

Curiosities about the gallipato

To finish knowing these amphibians, we are going to comment on some of the curiosities of gallipatos. For example, despite the fact that at first glance it looks like a non-dangerous animal, we can wonder if gallipato is poisonous or not, since they have relatives who are. And the answer to this question is yes.

The strategy of defense of the gallipato it is very peculiar. This is based on the gallipato ribs; When potential predators of this species approach, bite or try to eat it, this amphibian projects the sharp ends of its ribs out of its body through glandular areas of its skin, which excrete toxins, so that it they turn into poisonous little needles. Thus, inject toxins in the mouth of the predator that has been able to bite them and causes their flight.

If you want to read more articles similar to Gallipato: what is it, characteristics and curiosities, we recommend that you enter our Wild Animals category.

  • The Timon Herpetological Association. (2022). Gallipato / Ofegabous (Pleurodeles waltl). Recovered from:
  • Alarcos, G., Ortiz, M. E., Fernández, M. J., & Avia, M. L. (2006). Predation of gallipat (Pleurodeles waltl) by otter in Los Arribes del Duero, Salamanca. Bulletin of the Spanish Herpetological Association, 17(2), 85-87.
  • Salvador, A. (2002). Gallipato-Pleurodeles waltl (Michahelles, 1830).
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