Rough-skinned Newt

Contents:
 
Links:
Taxon, Status, and Ranks Habitat Photos
General Description State Status Comments
Identification Tips Inventory & Research Needs Key Features
Phenology Threats & Mgmt Concerns
Range References Distribution Map

Taxon, Status, and Rank

Species Taricha granulosa     (Skilton, 1849)
Family Salamandridae
(Newts)
Status none
State Rank S5
Global Rank G5

General Description

A medium to large-sized, stocky, brown salamander with a rounded snout, rough glandular skin, and a bright orange underside. Aquatic phase males are similar but have smoother skin, enlarged forearms and a laterally flattened tail with a small but distinct tail fin. Adults are 6-9 cm snout-vent length 11-18 cm total length. During the breeding season males have conspicuously swollen vent lobes while females have only a slight conical swelling around the vent. Newly transformed juveniles resemble terrestrial adults.

The ova are small (1.8 mm diameter), laid singly and are hidden by the female in vegetation. The ovum is tan above and cream below with a thin layer of jelly surrounding the capsule. The jelly retains its shape out of water.

Larvae are pond-type with large gills and a high tail fin. The eyes are on the margin of the head, the snout narrows in front of the eyes, a faint horizontal stripe is present from the snout through the eye, and one or two distinct rows of white spots occur on the sides. A salmon colored area is present on the underside of the chest. Metamorphosis takes place when larvae are approximately 3-7 cm in total length. See Photos Page.

Identification Tips

Torrent salamanders (Rhyacotriton spp.) differ in having costal grooves, smooth skin, large eyes, white speckling on the sides of the body and the males have squared cloacal lobes. Torrent Salamanders are also much smaller (adult 4.5-5.5 cm SVL) than Rough-skinned Newts.

Larva: Rough-skinned Newts are our only salamander larvae that have eyes on the margins of the head and a snout that narrows in front of the eyes.

Eggs: The Rough-skinned Newt is one of only three Washington amphibians that lays single eggs and the only one that hides its eggs within vegetation. Tiger Salamanders lay similar sized single eggs but attach them to vegetation where the eggs are exposed. Long-toed salamanders have single eggs that are larger (> 1cm diameter including gel) with gel that does not hold its shape out of water. See Key Features Page.

Phenology

At low elevation sites in western Washington, Rough-skinned Newts are active year round. Terrestrial forms can be observed migrating in streams and creeks to ponds starting in January. Courtship displays and pairs in amplexus are most obvious in March and April at low elevation sites. Newts that occur at higher elevations start breeding soon after snow and ice melt. Eggs are laid soon after mating takes place. Newts are the last of our salamander species to breed and the last salamander larvae to hatch.

Range

In Washington, Rough-skinned Newts occur primarily west of the Cascade Crest in the Pacific Coast, Puget Trough and West Cascades Ecoregions. They also occur east of the Cascade Crest in some areas of the East Cascades Ecoregion. See Distribution Map.

For information on the complete range of this species, see NatureServe Explorer.

Habitat and Habits

Mesic forests are the main terrestrial habitat occupied by this species. Activity in terrestrial habitats occurs primarily when temperatures are moderate and the ground is wet. Activity can be diurnal or nocturnal. Breeding habitats include ponds, wetlands, lakes, road ditches and slow moving creeks.

When threatened, newts arch the head towards the tail (unken reflex). This posture reveals the bright orange coloration of the underside that warns predators of its toxicity. With the exception of the Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis), few vertebrate predators can survive ingesting a Rough-skinned Newt. The highly toxic nature of this species allows them to be one of the few terrestrial salamanders active and conspicuous during the day. The toxin (tetrodotoxin) is produced within the skin, not secreted. Newts can be handled safely but care should be taken with small children prone to putting things in their mouths. After handling any amphibian, one should avoid touching the mucus membranes of the eyes, nose and mouth until hands have been washed.

State Status Comments

This species is common and occurs throughout western Washington. No widespread declines have been documented.

Inventory and Research Needs

No specific inventory or research needs are known at this time. Observations that occur in areas that are not indicated on the distribution map can be submitted to the Washington Department of Fish and Wildife herp database by contacting Lori Salzer by E-mail salzeljs@dfw.wa.gov.

Current or Recent Research in Washington

None at this time.

Threats and Management Concerns

In some areas, newts migrate in large groups to breeding ponds. If the migratory path crosses a road with heavy traffic, mortality can be high and could potentially threaten a local population.

References

Corkran and Thoms 1996, Nussbaum et al. 1983, Stebbins 1951.



Hallock, L.A. and McAllister, K.R. 2005. Rough-skinned Newt. Washington Herp Atlas. http://www1.dnr.wa.gov/nhp/refdesk/herp/

Last updated: December 2005


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