Skip Navigation

Salamanders and Newts

Salamanders

Salamanders vary in that some species are aquatic, some are terrestrial, and some are semi-aquatic, spending part of the time in the water and part on land. Many salamanders are born in the water with gills and as they grow they develop lungs and become terrestrial. Some species retain their gills through their life. Salamanders are able to take up oxygen through the skin; the lungless salamander can also take up oxygen through the membrane of the mouth. Whether aquatic or terrestrial, salamanders need moisture for survival and are only found in wet or damp environments.

Salamanders are clawless and have short, smooth, moist bodies with a long tail. They do not have scales. Salamanders are unable to hear sounds but can sense sound through vibrations in the ground. Their sight is well developed, and use their tongue to both smell and taste.

Salamanders do not hibernate. They shed their skin every few days to every few weeks depending on the species, except during cold weather when they do not shed at all. They are found in cool, moist environments and can often be found under rocks or logs. Their carnivorous diet consists mainly of worms, insects, and other salamanders.

The following species of salamanders all commonly occur in Montgomery County:

Image of Dusky Salamander

 

Dusky Salamander, Desmognathus fuscus

The Dusky Salamander grows to 11.5 cm. The back of the salamander is a yellow-brown to black color. The patterns vary making this species difficult to identify. There is a light line between the eye and the corner of the mouth, and there is a sharply keeled, knife-edged tail. Young have the dorsal coloration of gray to brown. On their back, they have pairs of light ovals with a dark outline sometimes connected with a line running along the side of the body. Breeding occurs between June and September. Females lay 12-26 eggs under stones or logs near a stream. They stay with the eggs until they hatch and remain in contact with the larvae. When the eggs hatch, the larvae spend a few days in the moist soil, then continue to the stream where they remain for several years, at which time they return to land. The main habitat of the Dusky Salamander is streams, wetlands, and under stones and logs. They have a home range of 48 square miles. Their diet mainly consists of spiders, insects, isopods, centipedes, and oligochaetes.

Image of Mud Salamander

 

Eastern Mud SalamanderPseudotriton montanus

The Eastern Mud Salamander grows to a length of 7.5-17.5cm. They have a red body with round black markings and brown eyes. Young salamanders are brightly colored; as the salamander ages, the bright color fades to brown. Mating occurs in the late fall and in December the females lay a clutch of 60-190 eggs in water-filled channels or ponds. Eggs hatch in February. Females lays eggs every other year. This salamander may be found in muddy areas near springs and in swampy environments. The Eastern Mud Salamander may be mistaken for the Red Salamander. The Eastern Mud Salamander, however, generally has a shorter, blunter snout than that of the Red Salamander.

Image of Longtail Salamander

 

Long-tailed SalamanderEurycea longicauda

The Long-tailed Salamander grows to a length of 16 cm. The tail length is up to two-thirds the size of the body. This species is the only one on the East Coast that has vertical markings on the tail. The dorsal surface is generally red to yellow-orange with dark markings. The immature salamander is yellow with a much shorter tail. Breeding occurs October through March. Female salamanders lay approximately 90 eggs, which are attached to stones or debris in underground freshwater crevices. The Long-tailed Salamander is mainly a terrestrial species and is generally found under rotting logs and rocks near streams. Their diet consists of terrestrial insects, worms, invertebrates, and arthropods.

Image of Marbled Salamander

 

Marbled Salamander, <Ambystoma opacum

The Marbled Salamander grows to 10 cm in length. The dorsal coloration is a black background with gray (female) or white (male) markings and its belly is black. Young salamanders have dark-colored specks on the dark background. They are a nocturnal species. Breeding occurs during the fall and females construct nests on the edges of vernal pools where they lay egg clutches of roughly 60-200 eggs. Females guard the eggs until they hatch. The young remain on land under logs and rocks. The Marbled Salamander usually stays underground except in fall when they emerge for breeding. They are found in sandy and gravel areas near streams or ponds.

Image of Northern Spring Salamander

 

Northern Spring SalamanderGyrinophilus porphyriticus

The average length of the Northern Spring Salamander is 120-175 mm. They vary in color from reddish to salmon to brown, and have a light and dark line from the nostril to the eye. The tail is keeled. During late spring/summer females lay up to 100 single eggs, in cool water, attached to the underside of stones. Eggs hatch with in 3 months. These salamanders can be found in springs and under logs and leaves in nearby forests. The Northern Spring Salamander will eat other salamanders.

Image of Red Salamander

 

Red SalamanderPseudotriton ruber

The Red Salamander generally grows to 7.5-12.7cm. They are typically reddish in color with short legs and a short tail. The back has irregularly-shaped black spots, as does the underside of the lower jaw. The iris of the eye is yellow. Mating occurs during early fall. Females lay 50-100 eggs and stay with the clutch until the eggs hatch in December. Males tend to mature at 4 years; females mature at 5 years. This species may be found near cool clear-water streams and are often seen under moss, rocks, or logs. The diet of the Red Salamander consists of earthworms, insects, arthropods, and other invertebrates.

Image of Spotted Salamander

 

Spotted SalamanderAmbystoma maculatum

The Spotted Salamander grows to be 10-20 cm in length. Its back (or dorsal side) is generally black with two irregular rows of yellow spots going down each side of the body from the eye to the tip of the tail. The first pair of spots, closest to the eyes, are generally orange. The underside (or ventral side) of the salamander is gray. The spotted salamander is unable to breathe through its skin. The first warm day in spring triggers mating. The females lay up to 200 eggs in forested ponds, which take 30-55 days to hatch. During the summer and winter the adults live underground. In the spring they venture out at night to forested ponds to reproduce. They are generally found in forests with ponds, vernal pools, and slow moving streams. The spotted salamander does not eat during breeding season but during the rest of the year they feast on spiders, earthworms, snails, and other insects.

Image of Two-lined Salamander

 

Northern Two-lined SalamanderEurycea bislineata

The Northern Two-lined Salamander grows to be up to 9 cm. The back of the salamander is a yellowish to greenish brown color with two dark lines running from each eye to the rounded tail where the line becomes more of a dashed rather than a solid line. The tail is compressed and keeled. Breeding occurs through the winter months. Females lay 12-100 eggs in streams under logs and rocks, and will guard them until they hatch. The northern two-lined salamander is mainly found along stream edges under logs and rocks, and swimming in streams. 

 

Newts

Newts are in the Order Caudata, Family Salamandridae. Newts are very similar to salamanders with a few differences. The skin of the newt is rougher and not as slimy. The life stage of the eastern newts is unique (this includes the species found in Montgomery County).

The newt is born in the water, and as the larvae transforms into the red eft form it moves to land for one to three years. After this time, the eft will return to the water and change into an aquatic adult. Sometimes, the red eft stage is passed over and the newt remains aquatic throughout its entire life cycle. When this occurs, there is a chance the newt will retain remnants of its gills even as an adult. Efts have brightly colored skin, a round tail, and very rough skin. Adult newts have olive-brown skin, a vertically compressed tail, and smoother skin.

A newt's diet consists mainly of leeches, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, frog eggs, insects, and juvenile amphibians. Efts primarily eat insects. Newts do not have many predators due to their skin excretions, which most predators find toxic or irritating.

There is one species of newt in Montgomery County.

Image of Red Spotted Newt

Red Spotted Newt, Notophthalmus viridescens

The Red Spotted Newt grows to be 6.5-14.0 cm. The aquatic adults have an olive brown back and a yellow belly. Both the belly and back have black speckles on them and might also have two rows of red spots with black boarders. This species has been found as deep as 40 feet underwater. The terrestrial red eft stage has a brightly colored orange red back, and may grow to just over 7.5 cm.

During breeding season (late winter to early spring) males under go morphological changes in preparation for mating. They develop horny black structures on their toe tips and inner thighs, and a broad fin on the tail. Their hind legs also swell (see photo).

Females lay up to 400 single eggs and attach them to submerged vegetation. It takes up to 5-8 weeks for the eggs to hatch. When the larvae hatch, each is less than 1.0 cm in length and is green in color. Red spotted newts are generally found in ponds and lakes with a lot of vegetation, swamps, stream backwaterss, and wetlands. The adults primarily eat insects, worms, crustaceans, amphibian eggs and larvae, and mollusks. The efts are generally found in moist forested environments. This species is active all year. 

 

To learn more about salamanders and newts check out these links: