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A Guide to the Amphibians
and Reptiles of California


Rough-skinned Newt - Taricha granulosa

(Skilton, 1849)
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Rough-skinned Newt California Range MapRange in California: Red

Dot-locality Range Map




Identifying Species of
Pacific Newts - genus Taricha


observation link



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Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Adult, Humboldt County Juvenile, Del Norte County Adult, Mendocino County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Breeding adult male, Butte County Adult male, Butte County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Breeding adult female, Butte County Adult, Mendocino County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Breeding adult male (top) and breeding adult female (bottom), Butte County Breeding adult male, Butte County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Juvenile, Santa Clara County Recently metamorphed juvenile
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Adult in defensive posture, showing the brightly-colored underside as a warning, and curling the tail, Lewis County, Washington Adult, defensive posture,
Del Norte County
Breeding adult male in defensive
posture, Butte County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Adult in defensive stance, Douglas County Oregon
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Adult in aquatic phase, Del Norte County © Alan Barron Adult in aquatic phase, Del Norte County © Alan Barron Adult in terrestrial phase, Del Norte County © Alan Barron
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt gartersnake eating newt
Breeding adult male (on bottom) with breeding adult male Sierra Newt (on top) found in the same pool of water. Adult, Tehama County © Jackson Shedd Santa Cruz Gartersnake eating a
young newt   © Odophile.com
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts
Several breeding adult newts in a breeding pond eating amphibian eggs, possibly Northwestern Salamander eggs.
Many Northern Red-legged Frog eggs were also seen at the location.
Rough-skinned Newt eyes Rough-skinned Newt eyes Rough-skinned Newt foot
When viewed from above, the eyes do not usually reach the outline of the head, while those of T. t. torosa usually do. Lower eyelids are dark. Eye has a yellow patch, unlike the solid black eyes of T. rivularis. During the breeding season, adult males develop nuptial pads on the toes to improve their ability to hold onto females during amplexus. Compare with the toes of a breeding female without these pads.

Breeding, Eggs and Larvae
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts
Mating ball, Southwest Oregon,
© Steven Krause
Underwater male and female in amplexus, Pacific County, Washington Underwater male and female in amplexus, Pacific County, Washington
Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva
  Larva (in water)  
Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva
Metamorphs, found on land at the edge of a pond, and photographed underwater. Notice the trace of gills remaining
Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt egg  
Gilled juvenile found on land and photographed underwater. Egg on submerged blade of grass, Thurston County, Washington.
© 2004 William Leonard

 
Habitat
Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat
Rough-skinned Newt Habitat
Habitat, Mendocino County Habitat, San Mateo County
Habitat, near sea level, Del Norte County
Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat
Habitat, Siskiyou County
Habitat, 5,700 ft. Siskiyou County Habitat, Humboldt County
Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat  
Habitat, San Mateo County

Breeding pool in coniferous forest,
Butte County

 
Short Videos
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt s

Rough-skinned newts move around the rocky shallow margins of a river in Douglas County, Oregon, occasionally coming up for air.

A few light taps on the back of a Rough-skinned Newt causes it to take a passive defensive posture, raising its tail and head to display the bright orange color of its underside which signifies danger. This "unken reflex" shows a would-be predator that the newt is deadly poisonous, while at the same time, the newt releases deadly toxins from its skin. Pairs of Rough-skinned newts in amplexus in the breeding pond.
Rough-skinned Newt s Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
A male and a female Rough-skinned newt in their underwater amplexus ballet. Male newts in the breeding pond wrestling over and waiting for females. Solo male newts and males and females in amplexus swim underwater in a breeding pond in Pacific County, Washington in mid February.
  Rough-skinned Newt  
  Several Rough-skinned newts in Pacific County, Washington, interact with an underwater egg mass that could be from A. gracile - Northwestern Salamander, or possibly a Long-toed Salamander. Some of the newts appear to be trying to bite the eggs as if to eat them, while others seem to just thrash around without taking any bites.  
Description

Size
Adults are 2 1/2 - 3 1/2 inches long (6.4 - 8.9 cm) from snout to vent, and 3 1/2 - 7 7/8 inches (8.9 - 20 cm) in total length.
Appearance
A stocky, medium-sized lunged salamander with dry granular skin, and no costal grooves. Black, brown, reddish-brown, or light brown above, yellow or orange below. Some populations have dark blotches on the back or the venter. Lower eyelids are dark. Irises are yellowish.
Breeding males develop smooth lighter-colred skin that looks wrinkled and baggy underwater, a flattened tail to aid with swimming, a swollen vent, and rough nuptial pads on the undersides of the feet to aid in holding onto females during amplexus.

Larva are pond type, brown with a row of light spots on the sides of the body
Behavior and Natural History
The natural history of T. granulosa varies widely over its range.
Generally terrestrial, often seen crawling over land in the daytime, becoming aquatic when breeding. Some populations hide in daylight becoming active at night. Some populations are primarily aquatic, living up to 10 months in permanent ponds and in streams. In terrestrial populations, rainfall in fall triggers emergence and a period of wandering to forage.

Newts are often seen moving to breeding sites during the breeding season. Migration may involve the use of celestial cues for navigation. Migration to and from breeding sites varies among populations. Some newts spend the dry summer in moist habitats under woody debris, rocks, or animal burrows with adults emerging after the fall rains. In some populations, adults remain in the ponds and lakes throughout the summer and migrate back onto land in the fall when the rain starts. Often they will form large aggregates of thousands of newts in the water. In other populations, males remain in the ponds all year. Adults have been found in some California streams all year long except during winter flooding.

Poisonous skin secretions containing tetrodotoxin repel most predators. This potent neurotoxin is widespread throughout the skin, muscles, and blood, and can cause death in many animals, including humans, if eaten in sufficient quantity. (One study estimated that 25,000 mice could be killed from the skin of one Rough-skinned newt, the most toxic of the Taricha species.) This poison can also be ingested through a mucous membrane or a cut in the skin, so care should always be taken when handling newts.
In most locations the Common Gartersnake, Thamnophis sirtalis, is has a high resistance to this poison, and is known to prey on Rough-skinned Newts.

When threatened, this newt assumes a swaybacked defensive pose, closing its eyes, extending its limbs to the sides,  and holding its tail curled up over the body. This "unken reflex" exposes its bright orange ventral surface coloring which is a warning to potential predators.

Adults feed mostly at night, slowly stalking prey, then quickly snapping at it, sucking it into the mouth when feeding underwater. Prey is found by sight and smell.

Longevity is estimated to be 12 years.
Diet
Diet consists mostly of a variety of invertebrates but also includes salamander and frog eggs and larvae, and even tiny fish.
Newt larvae feed on protozoans, scraping them off plants and rocks. As they grow larger, they feed on small aquatic invertebrates.
Reproduction and Young
Reproduction is aquatic. Adults breed along the vegetated edges of slow streams, lakes, ponds, and reservoirs typically begining in December, but the timing varies with location. At low elevation sites along the coast, breeding occurs mostly in March and April, but can take place any time from late December to June. At higher elevations, breeding can occur in summer and fall.

Adults are thought to be reproductively mature when they are 4  to 5 years old. Adults in most populations are thought to breed every other year. Except in areas where adults remain in the water year-round, males and females migrate to the breeding site where the males transform into their aquatic phase, with smooth skin that lightens in color, swollen cloacal lips, and tails enlarged and flattened to help them swim. Females develop smoother skin, but do not undergo as much change as males. Males arrive first and wait for females to arrive. When a female enters the water, males rush to grab her, often all grabbing her at the same time until one male is the victor. A male grabs onto the back of a female and holds on tightly, using specialized nuptial pads on his toes that develop during the breeding season to help his grip. Males continue this amplexus, swimming back and forth in the water, until the female is ready to fertilize her eggs. At that time, the male deposits a spermatophore and the female picks it up with her cloaca.

Females lay and attach eggs singly onto the stems and leaves of submerged plants, typically within a few inches of the surface of the water. Eggs contain the same chemical toxin that is present in the newts. Eggs hatch in 20 - 26 days, depending on the water temperature.

Larvae transform in some locations after 4 - 5 months. In others, they overwinter and transform the following summer. Recently-transformed juveniles can be found under rocks and wood along the edge of a breeding pond. After metamorphosis, juveniles move onto land, sometimes far from the water, moving into underground retreats and emerging on wet nights to feed on the surface.
Range
In California, this species is found from Santa Cruz County north along the coast through the north coast ranges and east around the northern edge of the great valley south in the foothills of the west slope of the Sierra Nevada to near Magalia in Butte County. It ranges farther north through Oregon and Washington, mostly east of the Cascade Mountains, and up the coast of British Columbia to Alaska. Also introduced into a small area in Idaho.
T. granulosa has the largest distribution of the three species of Taricha.

Coexists with T. rivularis but unlike that species, this newt breeds in still, not flowing, water. Sometimes hybridizes with T. rivularis.
Habitat
Uses a variety of terrestrial and aquatic habitats. Found in grasslands, woodlands, and coniferous forest, often near their aquatic breeding habitat. Aquatic habitats include temporary and permanent ponds, lakes, slow edges of streams and creeks.
Found at elevations from sea level to about 9,200 ft. (2,800 m).
Taxonomic Notes
Some herpetologists recognize two subspecies of Taricha granulosa, including T. g. mazamae at Crater Lake, Oregon.
Conservation Issues  (Conservation Status)
Timber harvesting, especially clearcutting, is known to impact newt habitat. Some studies have concluded that UV-B exposure may have a negative effect on rough-skinned newts.
Taxonomy
Family Salamandridae Newts Goldfuss, 1820
Genus Taricha Pacific Newts Gray, 1850
Species

granulosa Rough-skinned Newt (Skilton, 1849)
Original Description
Skilton, 1849 - Amer. Journ. Sci. Arts., Ser. 2, Vol. 7, p. 202, pl. 1

from Original Description Citations for the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America © Ellin Beltz

Meaning of the Scientific Name
Taricha: Greek - preserved mummy, possibly referring to the rough skinned appearance.
granulosa: Latin - full of small grains, referring to the rough skin of terrestrial adults.

from Scientific and Common Names of the Reptiles and Amphibians of North America - Explained © Ellin Beltz

Alternate Names
Taricha granulosa - Rough-skinned Newt
Taricha granulosa granulosa - Northern Roughskin Newt

Related California Salamanders
Taricha torosa torosa - Coast Range Newt
Taricha torosa sierrae - Sierra Newt
Taricha rivularis - Red-bellied Newt

More Information and References
California Department of Fish and Wildlife

AmphibiaWeb

Stebbins, Robert C., and McGinnis, Samuel M.  Field Guide to Amphibians and Reptiles of California: Revised Edition (California Natural History Guides) University of California Press, 2012.

Stebbins, Robert C. California Amphibians and Reptiles. The University of California Press, 1972.

Stebbins, Robert C. A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. 3rd Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2003.

Behler, John L., and F. Wayne King. The Audubon Society Field Guide to North American Reptiles and Amphibians. Alfred A. Knopf, 1992.

Powell, Robert., Joseph T. Collins, and Errol D. Hooper Jr. A Key to Amphibians and Reptiles of the Continental United States and Canada. The University Press of Kansas, 1998.

Bartlett, R. D. & Patricia P. Bartlett. Guide and Reference to the Amphibians of Western North America (North of Mexico) and Hawaii. University Press of Florida, 2009.

Bishop, Sherman C. Handbook of Salamanders. Cornell University Press, 1943.

Lannoo, Michael (Editor). Amphibian Declines: The Conservation Status of United States Species. University of California Press, June 2005.

Petranka, James W. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution, 1998.

Corkran, Charlotte & Chris Thoms. Amphibians of Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia. Lone Pine Publishing, 1996.

Jones, Lawrence L. C. , William P. Leonard, Deanna H. Olson, editors. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, 2005.

Leonard et. al. Amphibians of Washington and Oregon. Seattle Audubon Society, 1993.

Nussbaum, R. A., E. D. Brodie Jr., and R. M. Storm. Amphibians and Reptiles of the Pacific Northwest. Moscow, Idaho: University Press of Idaho, 1983.

Conservation Status

The following status listings come from the Special Animals List and the Endangered and Threatened Animals List which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.


This salamander is not included on the Special Animals List, which indicates that there are no significant conservation concerns for it in California.


Organization
Status Listing
U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA) None
California Endangered Species Act (CESA) None
California Department of Fish and Wildlife None
Bureau of Land Management None
USDA Forest Service None
 

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