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Red-spotted Newt

Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens (Rafinesque)

Newts live in grassy or weedy ponds. Adults are olive green with a yellow belly. Along the back are small red spots with black borders. Breeding males develop a high wavy crest on their tails. Newts eat mostly the immature stages of pond insects, particularly midges.

Newts lay eggs singly on the leaves and stems of pond plants. By August or September the aquatic larvae change into a juvenile stage called a red eft. This elegant little creature is bright red or red-orange, with two rows of black-bordered red spots. The red efts then migrate to lakeshore and woodland habitats to mature. You may see them crossing wet highways at night in August and September. Though seldom seen in daytime, efts are active in the forest litter on rainy nights. After about two years living in damp woods, they return to the ponds as adult newts for the rest of their lives.

Newts are easier to hold than other salamanders because their skin is rougher and less moist. They seem to get along well with aquarium fish.

Additional Facts and Details

This Family, the Salamandridae, is found mostly in Europe and Asia. Of the 14 known genera and 43 species known, only two genera and six species are native to North America.

Nova Scotia's Red-spotted Newt is one of a complex of four subspecies of the Eastern Newt.

Newts are easier to hold than the salamanders of other families because their skin is comparatively rough and less moist.

Adults vary in colour, depending on age and sex. Young adults gradually lose their reddish-orange terrestrial (red eft stage) colour and become olive-green on the back and upper sides. The lower sides and belly become yellow. They have from zero to about 58 red spots on the back.

Size of newly transformed young, based on 29 animals, total length is from 3.4 to 4.5 cm.

Size of older newts: males, from 7.3 to 11.4 cm, based on 103 animals measured; females, from 7.0 to 12.4 cm, based on 110 animals measured.

Distribution in Canada, throughout the Maritime Provinces, west to northwestern Ontario. In the United States, south to central Georgia and Alabama.

In Nova Scotia, it is common is all regions of the mainland and Cape Breton Island.

After one summer in an aquatic larval stage, the animals transform to red efts and spend probably two years in damp woodlands nearby. Then they return to ponds or quiet stretches of streams to mature.

Adults forage both day and night. Individuals have been seen during the winter, moving about under the ice.

Males court females from late March to late May. Breeding males develop a high, wavy crest on their tail and a series of black pads on the underside of the enlarged hind legs.

The male will position himself above and forward of the female, gripping her sides just behind her forelegs with his hind legs. He rubs the female's snout with the side of his head. Courtship behaviour includes fanning motions with the tail.

Females lay eggs singly on the leaves and stems of aquatic plants. Young male newts have been seen eating fresh-laid eggs.

During a light, warm rain on September 5, 1976, just after midnight, a large number of newly transformed red efts were seen migrating from a pond across a paved highway to mixed woods in Cumberland County. Also on the pavement were 20 larger red efts, but in two distinct size groups. The larger ones had completed their two-year juvenile stage and were going back to the pond to begin adult aquatic life. The smaller ones had completed their first year as juveniles and merely lingered about the wet pavement.

Red efts are most active on humid or rainy nights in spring, summer and autumn, but there are a number of reports of individuals moving about during the day.

The aquatic larvae feed on a variety of small invertebrates; stomach contents included water fleas, ostracods, copepods, amphipods, beetle larvae, pea clams and snails.

The terrestrial red efts (juveniles) prey heavily on small invertebrates living in humus and leaf litter, particularly snails, springtails and soil mites.

Adult Red-spotted Newts eat the aquatic immature stages of insects, particularly midge larvae.

Salamander Species

Yellow-spotted Salamander

Blue-spotted Salamander

Eastern Red-backed Salamander

Four-toed Salamander

Red-spotted Newt

Salamander Information

Finding Salamanders