Friday, September 25, 2009

Wee Newt

I found this little guy creeping across the driveway this morning. Those are centimeters he's sitting on, and those gigantic pinkish things in the background are my fingers. This has got to be the tiniest red eft I've ever found.

Red efts are the terrestrial stage of the red-spotted, or eastern, newt (Notophthalmus viridescens), one of our native salamanders. They remain in this juvenile stage for two to seven years, after which they return to the water, change into adults, and set about reproducing. This second change is what sets them apart from most other salamanders, which change once, from larva to adult. When the eft returns to the water, it developes a thinner and less toxic skin, regrows tailfins, and must revert to suction-type feeding.

A question I'm often asked is "what is the difference between a salamander and a newt?" - and the answer I give is that all newts are salamanders, but not all salamanders are newts; in other words, newts are a subgroup of salamanders. The physiological differences are small and don't apply to every case. Newts in general have less-slimy skin, and most must return to the water to reproduce. There may also be greater differences between the outer appearances of the sexes with newts than with salamanders, and newts may display more elaborate courtship behaviors.


  1. Ooh, ooh, ooh! He is so CUTE! Will he get any bigger before he becomes adult?

  2. Awwwwww. You must have good eyes, to have spotted him on the driveway.

  3. A wee lad indeed! Looks like it has a long walk about ahead of it being so small and all. I supose they hibernate in the leaves over winter. You have good eyes to have seen it.

  4. Woodswalker: yes, if the little guy survives all the trials Mother Nature throws at him, he should continue to grow over the next 2-7 years, maybe reaching 4" from stem to stern before he returns to the water.

    Barefoot and Squirrel: I find I tend to walk with my eyes cast to the ground, and red efts are a form that my mind is now programmed to pick up. They usually stand out, which makes them easier to see. But I think it was pure luck that let me find this little one before he got stepped on!

  5. I found one of these in my backyard.