Thursday, November 29, 2012

Red Spotted Newt

Posted by Sophie Case. Sophie is a senior Environmental Studies student at the University of Vermont. She loves speaking Spanish, cooking fresh and delicious foods, and playing music. 

While hiking in the woods one dreary fall afternoon, something flashy and bright red caught my eye. It was scurrying across the ground quickly, and stopped for a quick break on top of a branch. I took a closer look, and realized that I had never seen this creature before. It looked like some sort of salamander, but I wasn?t near any running water. I quickly snapped a picture, and decided to investigate further once I got home.

As it turns out, the creature I saw was a red eft (Notophtalmus viridescens), which is the the juvenile stage of a red spotted newt, also known as the eastern newt. I found that the red spotted newt is actually quite common in North America, and tends to live in small lakes, ponds, streams, or wet forests. The range for these newts extends from South Ontario to Nova Scotia and as far south as eastern Texas and Florida. The adult stage of the red spotted newt lives mostly in aquatic environments, while the juvenile stage is a terrestrial creature. Adults range in color from from olive to brownish green, have red spots on their back, and yellow bellies. Red Efts have a completely bright orange or red body.

Red spotted newts breed in April and May. Breeding is instigated by the male who attracts the female newt to him with his bright red spots. He then releases and odor while wiggling, which further attracts the female. The two mate and lay eggs that hatch in three to four weeks. Thus begins the three stage life cycle of this amphibian. The first stage is aquatic larvae (the eggs), the second stage is terrestrial efts (the red eft), and the third and final stage is the aquatic adult. Female red spotted newts lay between 200 and 400 eggs. Once the eggs hatch, the efts spend most of their time hunting.

Their diet consists mainly of caterpillars, invertebrates, spiders, and flies. Red Spotted Newts are one of the easiest newts to keep as a pet, as far as maintenance goes, but one has to be aware that they can live up to 20 years, so it may be more of a long term investment than most pet owners are ready for. Although the ref eft isn't too uncommon to see around the woods, I was excited to see a bit of wildlife on a rainy autumn day!

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