Eastern Newt

2016 September 24

On May 8, 2016, Sandy and the girls went back to the swamp in the woods to see what they could catch. They caught this:


It’s an Eastern Newt[1], Notophthalmus viridescens. This one also has a “friend”, I think that’s a mayfly nymph on its head. Newts eat insects (among other small creatures), so this may be more a case of the nymph hiding in the one place where the newt can’t get at it to eat it. The old problem of once you start riding a tiger, how do you get off?


The tail is pretty torn up, suggesting that a newt’s life is not an easy one. Either the tail snagged on something, or it has survived at least one predator attack.


Eastern Newts actually live quite a long time (12-15 years!), and are sometimes kept as pets. Their basic lifecycle alternates between water and land. The eggs hatch in water, producing a gilled salamander stage. Once this reaches its full size, it transforms into the “red eft” stage, which live on land instead of in the water. The eft then wanders for a couple of years, allowing the newts to spread from pond to pond. The efts secrete toxins from their skins, kind of like toads do, and their red color is a warning of their toxicity. Then, when an eft is ready to mature, it goes through the final transformation into the aquatic breeding stage, moving into an appropriate pond where it will probably spend the rest of its life. I haven’t seen an eft yet, but since we have just confirmed the presence of the breeding adults, the efts are clearly around somewhere, so one is bound to turn up eventually.

[1] Of course, I can’t think of newts without remembering this

3 Responses
  1. September 24, 2016

    When I think of newt, I think of the scene from Aliens.
    “Newt. That’s a nice name. ”

    That’s quite a life cycle. Newts should be used more often than frogs as examples of physiological metamorphosis.

  2. September 25, 2016

    I misread it as “grilled salamander” and wondered how it tasted.

  3. September 26, 2016

    Given that they are toxic, grilled newt probably tastes terrible. And may even be hallucinogenic, like toads.

    See Salamander Brandy, for example. Although, from the last reference on that article, it sounds like this may not actually work, and might be another one of those fake folk legends.

    Also, it isn’t just newts: “Although salamanders appear to be relatively inoffensive creatures, all species are poisonous.”

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