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Eastern newt

Class: Amphibia
Order: Caudata
Family: Salamandridae
Genus and Species: Notophthalmus viridescens
  • A small, yellow eastern newt swims through the water near a leafy, green frond
  • A small, spotted eastern newt swims toward gravel at the base of its aquarium
  • A small, spotted eastern newt swims near a rock, gravel and small green plants in its aquarium
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Eastern newts are native to the U.S. They have yellow or green-brown skin with red dots that signal their slight toxicity. The eastern newt's appearance evolves throughout its three distinct life stages: larvae, juvenile (or eft) and adult. Its primary habitat shifts between water and land, depending on its life stage.
Physical Description

Eastern newts are yellow or greenish-brown with black-bordered red spots on their backs and lighter, yellow bellies with black spots. They have slightly moist, rough skin.

This species generally has three distinct life stages: aquatic larvae, terrestrial juvenile (or eft) and aquatic adult. In the larval stage, eastern newts have smoother olive green skin, narrow tails and feathery external gills. During this stage, they can only live in water. After two to five months, they develop into a terrestrial eft that is brighter orange-red in color. The eft's lungs, legs and eyelids make it more suited for life on land. Newts may travel great distances to new water sources during this time, making their homes in leaf litter along the way.

Generally, efts metamorphose into aquatic adults after two to three years; however, some populations remain in the eft stage permanently, only entering pools to breed. Examples of newts that reached sexual maturity while maintaining their external gills, called neotenic newts, have also been reported. As aquatic adults, eastern newts can survive on land.

Size

Eastern newts grow to be 2.5-5 inches (7-12.5 centimeters) long.

Native Habitat

This species ranges throughout the eastern United States from Canada, south to Florida and west through the Great Lakes and Texas. As larvae and aquatic adults, they live in small areas of fresh water, including lakes, marshes and ponds. As terrestrial juveniles, they live among leaf litter.

Food/Eating Habits

Eastern newts are carnivorous at every stage of life, feeding on a variety of available invertebrates, including aquatic insects like mosquitos. 

Reproduction and Development

Eastern newts breed from late winter to early spring. Males actively court females with tail movements and wiggles, as well as by emitting pheromones. The males use their back legs to grip the side of the female behind her front legs in a kind of amplexus position. The male deposits his sperm packet on the bottom of the body of water, which the female then picks up with her cloaca to fertilize the eggs she has ready.

Males compete for mating, and other males may drop their sperm packet near a pair in amplexus, hoping that it is picked up instead. Over the next several weeks, the female lays between 200 and 400 jelly-covered eggs individually on various underwater plants. This species exhibits no parental care.

Lifespan

This species lives between 12 and 15 years.

As with other amphibians, habitat loss or degradation, pollution and emerging diseases are real threats to the eastern newt's continued success.

Help this Species
  • Reduce, reuse and recycle — in that order! Cut back on single-use goods, and find creative ways to reuse products at the end of their life cycle. Choose recycling over trash when possible.
  • Organize or attend a stream, river, lake or other waterway cleanup in your area to preserve aquatic habitats for local species.
  • Share the story of this animal with others. Simply raising awareness about this species can contribute to its overall protection.
  • Protect local waterways by using fewer pesticides when caring for your garden or lawn. Using fertilizers sparingly, keeping storm drains free of litter and picking up after your pet can also improve watershed health.
Science at Work Help This Species