Eastern Newt Fact File
The eastern newt has yellow or greenish-brown skin which features red spots with a black ring around them. This is moist and rough across it. On the underside their skin is colored yellow with black spots.
Their coloration helps them to camouflage on the bottoms of the water courses which they call home.
Females are typically lighter in coloration than the males.
At the end of their body is a long, laterally compressed tail. Their small eyes have a horizontal pupil. The front foot has four toes and the back foot has five toes.
An average eastern newt will measure 7.5-12.5cm (2.5-5in) long. Their weight varies from 5 to 11g (0.2-0.4oz).
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They are found in North America where they live in Canada and the United States of America. Here they are concentrated in the east half of the continent.
Adults and larva live in the water including ponds, swamps and quiet pools. They will also make use of man-made water courses. Efts and some adults will venture on to land in wooded areas.
During periods of warm weather where ponds may dry out they will burrow in the mud.
Breeding occurs from late winter to early spring. Females develop their eggs and then seek a male to fertilize these.
Males will engage in a courtship display where they fan their tail and wiggle their body. Their spots also help to attract the female. During breeding season males can be determined from females as they have a deep tail, a swollen cloaca and rough pads on the inside of their thighs.
Following a successful courtship display the male will deposit a sperm packet on the floor of the pond and this is then picked up by the female in to her cloaca. She will later use this to fertilize her eggs. Often they will be disturbed by a rival male who attempts to separate them. This rival male may also drop a sperm packet and females may pick up both.
Between 200 and 400 eggs are laid over a few weeks. Only a few eggs are laid each day. These eggs are stuck on to submerged vegetation. The eggs incubate for three to eight weeks.
By late summer the larva turn in to a specialized form called the red eft. They remain in this form for 1-4 years. During this time they are colored bright red, orange or brown across their body with red spots that have black edges.
Red efts spend most of their time on land and rest under leaf litter. After 1-4 years they will return to the water to develop in to their adult form. Once they return to the water they will spend the rest of their life there apart from overwinter where they move to land.
Some populations remain as an eft for their entire life cycle.
Females provide no further care once the eggs are laid. Males are not involved after mating with the female.
Sexual maturity is reached at 3 years old for both males and females.
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Eastern newts are most active during the warmer months. They spend their time looking for food on the shallows of pools and streams. Efts are primarily nocturnal while adults may be active by day or by night.
During winter they walk on to land to communal sites where they can rest overwinter.
In water they can move quickly with the aid of their flattened tail. On land they are much slower.
Predators and Threats
Natural predators of the eastern newt include birds, fish, insects and other amphibians. Eggs face further predators including aquatic invertebrates and leeches.
Their bright coloration advertises to predators that they have highly toxic skin secretions and should not be eaten.
They are collected in small amounts for the pet trade.
Invasive species in their environment and changes in their habitat further affect their population.
Eastern newts can regenerate lost limbs and fix damaged heart tissue.
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By Wilafa – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=83380213
By Dave Huth from Allegany County, NY, USA – Eastern Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=64866395
Burnie, D., 2011. Animal. 3rd ed. London: DK
Riemland, S. 2000. “Notophthalmus viridescens” (On-line), Animal Diversity Web. Accessed October 08, 2020 at https://animaldiversity.org/accounts/Notophthalmus_viridescens/
AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 8 Oct 2020.
Smithsonian’s National Zoo. 2020. Eastern Newt. [online] Available at: <https://nationalzoo.si.edu/animals/eastern-newt> [Accessed 10 October 2020].
Vtfishandwildlife.com. 2020. Eastern Newt | Vermont Fish & Wildlife Department. [online] Available at: <https://vtfishandwildlife.com/learn-more/vermont-critters/amphibians/eastern-newt> [Accessed 10 October 2020].
The Maryland Zoo. 2020. Eastern Newt Or Red-Spotted Newt | The Maryland Zoo. [online] Available at: <https://www.marylandzoo.org/animal/eastern-newt-red-spotted-newt/> [Accessed 10 October 2020].
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