California Newt (Taricha torosa)
Order: Caudata, Family: Salamandridae
The California newt is primarily located on the coastal range of California from Humbolt County to the Mexican border. Other isolated populations are also located in California, along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
I. GEOGRAPHIC RANGE
II. PHYSICAL CHARACTERISTICS
- The California newt is primarily located on the coastal range of California from Humbolt County to the Mexican border. Other isolated populations are also located in California, along the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range.
III. FOOD HABITS
- The adult California newt is typically 12.5-20 cm (4.9-7.8 inches) in total length with males slightly larger than females.
- California newts vary in color from a yellowish brown to a dark brown warty textured skin dorsally and a pale yellow to orange bottom on its ventral side. The aquatic larvae have a black stripe on either side of their dorsal fins and have gills in younger stages of development.
- They have large eyes that protrude beyond the edge of their head and light colored lower eyelids.
- The diet of an adult California newt consists of earthworms, snails, slugs and sow bugs. Adult newts have also been known to cannibalize their own eggs and larvae. There is little known about the diets of the California newt during the larvae stage.
- The California newt has an adhesive texture to its tongue and projects it out to capture its prey.
- Mating for the California newt takes place from December to early May. The California newt often migrates back to breed where they developed as larvae.
- Courtship of the California newt involves a dance ritual in which the male mounts the female and rubs his chin over her nose and flutters his tail. After approximately an hour the male dismounts and leaves a spermatophore — a compact mass of sperm — in the form of a small mound for the female to move over and retrieve with her cloaca.
- The female California newt will lay their eggs in ponds, lakes and slow moving streams in water typically not deeper than 15 cm (5 inches.) They lay from 7-30 eggs (approximately 1.9-2.8 mm in diameter), attached to exposed roots or unattached on the bottom. A gel-like, toxic membrane protects the eggs. The incubation period is usually 14-21 days and often longer depending on weather conditions.
- The size and amount of time in the larvae stage depends on the food sources and environmental conditions of their habitat.
- The California newt has a unique way of fending off predators. First they raise their head and point their tail straight out to expose their bright under exterior color to warn off predators. If the predator attacks, the California newt excretes a neurotoxin through its warty skin and can cause paralysis and or death to its attacker. Occasionally if it is disturbed it will make a clicking and sometimes a yelping sound.
- The California newt males spend more time in the water than the females do, especially during breeding season.
- The California newt has been observed walking through low smoldering flames and exiting with no ill effects. Apparently the secretions on their skin foam up and help dissipate the heat from the flames, perhaps giving them some safety during forest fires.
- The California newt of the northern population prefers moderately moist forests. Those of the southern population prefer a drier climate.
IX. OTHER COMMENTS
- The California newt is not currently listed as an endangered species. However there is a significant problem in the Santa Monica Mountains with non-native crayfish and mosquito fish feeding on their eggs and larvae.
- There are two recognized subspecies of California newt. The coast range newt (Taricha torosa torosa) occupies the coast range while the Sierra newt (Taricha torosa sierrae) is found in the Sierra Nevada mountain ranges.