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

frog sign

observation link

Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Adult, Humboldt County Juvenile, Del Norte County Adult, Mendocino County Adult, Mendocino County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Breeding adult male, Butte County Adult male, Butte County Breeding adult male, Butte County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Breeding adult female, Butte County Breeding adult male (top) and breeding adult female (bottom), Butte County
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Juvenile, Santa Clara County Adult, Tehama County © Jackson Shedd Breeding adult male (on bottom) with breeding adult male Sierra Newt (on top) found in the same pool of water.
Rough-skinned Newt 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 Recently metamorphed juvenile
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt
Adult male in water, Sonoma County
© Lou Silva
Adult, Sonoma County
© Lou Silva
Adults in a pond,
Thurston County, Washington
Adults in a pond,
Thurston County, Washington
Rough-skinned Newt salamander
Rough-skinned Newt Skeleton
National Museum of Natural History
When seen from above, the eyes of
a Rough-skinned Newt, T. granulosa, do not extend to or beyond the margin of the head.

Compare with T. torosa, the California Newt, on the right and with other newts found in California here:
Newt Identification.
Unusual Color Variations
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt  
Blotched newts have been found in several populations listed in the descriptions below. This unusual Rough-skinned Newt with a light ground color and dark blotches, was found near the coast in Tillamook County, Oregon in an area with many other typically-colored newts. © Matt D'Agrosa and Yvonne Stotler This is a short video of the newt described to the left.
© Matt D'Agrosa and Yvonne Stotler
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt    
Adult with an unusually pale venter that could be due to an autoimmune issue. Humboldt County © Spencer Riffle    
Defensive Posture
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.
(This newt is not curling the tail over the back in the typical behavior.)
Feeding and Predation
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts gartersnake eating newt
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.
Santa Cruz Gartersnake eating a
young newt   ©
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts
The eight pictures above show several Rough-skinned Newts eating earthworms on a road at night in Marion County, Oregon. They were among more than a thousand adult female newts that had migrated out onto the road on two rainy nights in late January & early February to take advantage of the worms which had crawled onto the road. The females were feeding before heading to the breeding pond, which was already full of males awaiting their arrival. © Chris Rombough
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt  
This adult newt (shown in water) is being attacked by a predatory diving beetle. © Lou Silva This short video shows 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. This short video shows several Rough-skinned newts in a Tillamook Co., Oregon coastal lake, 3.5 feet offshore and in 12" deep water feeding on largemouth bass eggs, most less than
1 mm in diameter. Male largemouth bass construct a nest where the female lays her eggs. It is often a circular depression in the substrate or a patch of submerged vegetation. In this case the nest is the patch of moss in which we see the newts, and the eggs are sticking to the strands. © Chris Rombough
Breeding Activity, Eggs and Larvae
Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newts Rough-skinned Newt egg
Mating ball, Southwest Oregon,
© Steven Krause
Male and female in amplexus in water, Pacific County, Washington Male and female in amplexus in water, Pacific County, Washington Egg on submerged blade of grass, Thurston County, Washington.
© 2004 William Leonard
Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva
  Larva (in water)   Larva (in water) Sonoma County
© Lou Silva
Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva Rough-skinned Newt larva
Gilled juvenile found on land and photographed in water. Metamorphs, found on land at the edge of a pond, and photographed in water. Notice the trace of gills remaining
Rough-skinned Newt foot      
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.      
Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Santa Cruz Black Salamander Habitat
Habitat, Mendocino County Habitat, San Mateo County
Habitat, near sea level, Del Norte County Habitat, San Mateo County
Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat Rough-skinned Newt Habitat
Habitat, Siskiyou County
Habitat, 5,700 ft. Siskiyou County Habitat, Humboldt County Breeding pool in coniferous forest,
Butte County
Short Videos
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt s 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. A male and a female Rough-skinned newt in their underwater amplexus ballet.
Rough-skinned Newt Rough-skinned Newt    
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.    
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.

A stocky, medium-sized lunged salamander with dry granular skin, and no costal grooves.
Color and Pattern
Black, brown, reddish-brown, or light brown above, yellow or orange below.
Lower eyelids are dark.
Irises are yellowish.

Stebbins, 2003, describes some different color variations:
at Gravina Island, Alaska, individuals have dark blotches on ventral surfaces;
at Crater Lake, OR, and vicinity some are nearly all black underneath;
some newts in the Siskiyou Mountains of California have dark blotches on both the dorsal and ventral surfaces;
some newts at Fay Lake, Linn County OR and 13 Lakes, Del Norte County, California, have dorsal blotches.
Male / Female Differences
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

Comparison With Similar Species of Newts
Identifying Species of Pacific Newts - Genus Taricha

Life History and Behavior
Rough-skinned when in the terrestrial phase.
Breathes through lungs.
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.

Rough-skinned 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.
Longevity is estimated to be 12 years.
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.

Toxic Secretions

Poisonous skin secretions containing the powerful neurotoxin tetrodotoxin repel most predators. The poison 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.

The eggs of this newt also contain the toxin.

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.
Some sources report that there are other gartersnake species that are immune to the toxin.
According to Petranka,1998, a study on Vancouver Island showed that while T. sirtalis showed no ill effects after consiming T. granulosa, T. elegans and T. ordinoides suffered loss of motor funtion when after consuming the newts.

There is evidence * that when Common Gartersnakes (Thamnophis sirtalis) eat Rough-skinned Newts (Taricha granulosa) they retain the deadly neurotoxin found in the skin of the newts called tetrodotoxin for several weeks, making the snakes poisonous (not venomous) to predators (such as birds or mammals) that eat the snakes. Since California Newts (Taricha torosa) also contain tetrodotoxin in their skin, and since gartersnake species other than T. sirtalis also eat newts, it is not unreasonable to conclude that any gartersnake that eats either species of newt is poisonous to predators.

* (Williams, Becky L.; Brodie, Edmund D. Jr.; Brodie, Edmund D. III (2004). "A Resistant Predator and Its Toxic Prey: Persistence of Newt Toxin Leads to Poisonous (Not Venomous) Snakes." Journal of Chemical Ecology. 30 (10): 1901–1919.)
Diet and Feeding
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.

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.
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.
After fertilizing her eggs by picking up a male spermatophore in 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.

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.

Geographical 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.

Full Species Range Map
Elevational Range
Found at elevations from sea level to about 9,200 ft. (2,800 m).

Notes on Taxonomy
Two subspecies of Taricha granulosa are sometimes recognized:
T. g. granulosa, and
T. g. mazamae at Crater Lake, Oregon.

Alternate and Previous Names (Synonyms)

Taricha granulosa - Rough-skinned Newt (Stebbins 1985, 2003, 2012)
Taricha granulosa granulosa - Northern Rough-skinned Newt (Stebbins 1966)
Taricha granulosa granulosa - ssp. of Rough-skinned Newt (Stebbins 1954)
Triturus granulosus twittyi - Twitty's Newt (Bishop 1943) (Marin County south to Monterey Bay populations)
Triturus granulosus granulosus - Oregon Newt (Bishop 1943)
Triturus torosus - Pacific Coast Newt (Brown Water Dog) (Storer 1925)
Taricha laevis (Baird & Girard 1853)
Notophthalmus torosus (Baird 1850)
Salamandra Beecheyi (Gray 1839)
Triturus torosus - (Rathke 1833)

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.
Family Salamandridae Newts Goldfuss, 1820
Genus Taricha Pacific Newts Gray, 1850

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


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 are copied from the April 2018 Special Animals List and the 2017 Endangered and Threatened Animals List, both of which are published by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife.

If no status is listed here, the animal is not included on either CDFW list. This most likely indicates that there are no serious conservation concerns for the animal. To find out more about an animal's status, you can go to the NatureServe and IUCN websites to check their rankings.

Check here to see the most current complete lists.

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

Status Listing
NatureServe Global Ranking Not Known
NatureServe State Ranking Not Known
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
IUCN Not Known

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