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A slender bodied salamander with a relatively long, laterally-flattened tail. The background is usually black, but can also be dark brown. The animals possess yellow spots, which do not follow a pattern. They usually also have red spots on the head. Adults of both sexes attain a snout-vent length of about 200 mm, sometimes longer. The females are usually larger than males. The male's cloaca is much more swollen than the females cloaca.
Although described as a full species, the Algerian salamander was later considered to be a subspecies of the common European salamander, Salamandra salamandra. Veith (1994) raised this salamander to the full species based on an eletrophoretic study. This was later further supported by a DNA study by Veith et al. (1998)
A possible subspecies is described in Morocco, west from Ceuta. These animals are smaller, have a shorter tail, possess no red coloration, and have a dark-brownish color with granite yellow spots. They also can give birth to completely metamorphosed young salamanders (Donaire Barroso and Bogaerts 2001)