The Red Spotted Newt
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The term newt can be applied to any of a number of species of
semi-aquatic salamanders in the family Salamandridae.
Most species within the family Salamandridae are found in Europe.
In fact only two (2) genera of newts are found in the United
The Red-Spotted or Eastern Newt is one of the most abundant
salamanders in New England. Unlike other salamanders, newts have
a rough skin and indistinct costal grooves. The 2 1/4 to 4 3/4
inches long adults are usually aquatic. Dorsally adults are
usually olive green although color may range from a yellowish
brown to a greenish brown peppered with red spots. Ventrally
they are yellow with black spots.
NEWT, ADULT STAGE
Adult red-spotted newts can be found in a variety of habitats.
They are the only species of New England salamander that can
co-exist with populations of fish. This is because newts secrete
noxious substances from their skin. Newts may be found in
marshes, back waters of streams, vernal pools, and even permanent
ponds and lakes. Aquatic adults may be active all year long and
are frequently seen swimming about under the ice.
Red-Spotted Newts have a complex life history. The adults
usually spend the winter on land, underground. In the early
spring they emerge and return to the water. They live in
permanent bodies of water and reproduce in the spring through
early summer. The female deposits her 300-400 eggs one at a
time, attaching them to submerged vegetation. Depending on water
temperature, the eggs may take several weeks to hatch. The
aquatic larvae remain in the pond until late summer.
NEWT, LARVAL STAGE
They resorb their gills and change into the bright orange
terrestrial stage called efts. Newts remain in this terrestrial
eft stage for up to 7 years, after which they undergo a second
metamorphosis where they lose their red orange color and become
more drab olive-colored adults.
TERRESTRIAL RED EFT STAGE
There are populations of red-spotted newts that don't conform to
this scenario. Skip Lazell, in his book "This Broken
Archipelago," mentions two alternative life history
strategies. In some coastal populations the terrestrial red eft
stage is omitted. The larvae continue to grow in size. They
eventually become sexually mature while still retaining their
larval appearance. They look similar to a typical adult newt yet
retain their external gills.
In other populations, newts enter the red eft stage and never
undergo a second metamorphosis. These yellowish terrestrial
adults retain the eft morphology. They live around the edge of
ponds and marshes, forage terrestrially and return to water only
Whether a bright orange terrestrial eft or a fully aquatic adult,
newts are one of our most common and easily observed salamanders.
Lazell, James. D. 1976. This Broken Archipelago: Cape Cod and
the Islands, Amphibians, and Reptiles. Quadrangle/New York
Times Book Co., New York.