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A little bit of information about newt biology

Updated: Jun 9, 2021

Two species of newts live on the hills around Lexington Reservoir: California Newt (Taricha torosa) and Rough-skinned Newt (Taricha granulosa). Their diet consists of terrestrial and aquatic invertebrates, including snails, worms, and insect larvae. Unlike many other amphibians, newts are often active during the day, exposing them to different predators, such as birds and snakes. This is probably why they posses a very potent neurotoxin for protection. Humans could be affected by the poison only when swallowing a newt. It is advised to clean your hands after handling a newt, though.

A newt walking on leaf litter
Newts have dry and rough skin, unlike other salamanders in the West

California newts used to be one of the most abundant salamanders on the coastal ranges of California, but habitat loss of both foraging and breeding habitat, had a great impact on their population.

During the dry season newts hide buried in the ground. After about 4” of rain they start foraging for food, and later start migrating to ponds and creeks to breed. They might travel from a large area into the breeding habitat.

At the end of the mating season they need to climb back to the hills. Males usually travel earlier to the breeding sites, and stay there longer. Females tend to leave after laying their eggs. In addition, males usually migrate every year, while females migrate only about every three years. Newts life expectancy is up to 26 years!

A newt under water
Males spend more time in water, developing smooth, thick, swollen skin, and a tail fin
A ball of eggs in the water
Newt egg mass in a pond
Newt larva
Newt larva, showing its external gills

A few newts holding each other
Newt mating ball: males are highly attracted to females
A newt on grass, showing its ventral orange color
A newt in its defense posture

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1 Comment

Jesse G
Jesse G
Jan 11, 2022

It's also advised to avoid handling newts all together since they are very sensitive! Oils and lotions on your hands are absorbed through their skin and can be harmful. Please just let them be unless intervening to aid them (like the Newt Patrol does), thanks :)

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