Robert Becker on The Regenerating Salamander

"It had been 'known' for perhaps ten thousand years that plants could regenerate and animals couldn't. To many zoologists, even twenty years after Trembley's initial discovery, the few known exceptions only proved the rule, for octopi, crayfish, hydras, worms, and snails seemed so unlike humans or the familiar mammals that they hardly counted. The lizard, the only other vertebrate regenerator then known, could manage no more than an imperfect tail. But the salamander-here was an animal we could relate to! This was no worm or snail or microscopic dot, but a four-limbed, two-eyed vertebrate that could walk and swim. While its legendary ability to withstand fire had been disproven, its body was big enough and its anatomy similar enough to ours to be taken seriously. Scientists could no longer assume that the underlying process had nothing to do with us. In fact, the questions with which Spallanzani ended his first report on the salamander have haunted biologists ever since: 


'Is it to be hoped that (higher animals) may acquire (the same power) by some useful dispositions? and should the flattering expectation of obtaining this advantage for ourselves be considered entirely as chimerical?'"


—The Body Electric by Robert Becker (1985)