Rough Skinned Newts on a Fall Mission

rrough skinned newtThe Rough-skinned newt is a brown salamander with rough skin over an orange underside.  In the aquatic phase of life the males are similar but have smoother skin, enlarged forearms and a flattened tail with a slight tail fin.  Overall total length on average are about 11 to 18 centimeters long.

In Washington state, Rough-skinned Newts occur primarily west of the Cascade Crest in the Pacific Coast, Puget Trough and West Cascades Ecoregions. They also occur east of the Cascade Crest in some areas of the East Cascades Ecoregion.  The most highly populated areas for these salamanders are old growth forests

At low elevation sites in western Washington, Rough-skinned Newts are active year round.  Rough skinned newts, like many other newts, migrate to breed and lay eggs.  The newts will migrate to and from their aquatic breeding sites of ponds and wetlands annually .  The males of these newts will often stay around the ponds and wetlands throughout the year.

These newts are the most toxic of land animals on the planet.  They possess a potent neurotoxin called tetrodotoxin or TTX.  The same toxins are used by blue ringed octopus and pufferfish.  This powerful poison is produced by symbiotic bacteria that lives in or on its host.  The toxin must be ingested for its dangerous effects.  However after handling the rough skinned newt avoid touching your eyes and do wash your hands immediately after handling.

The rough skinned newts only predator is the Common Garter Snake, and it has a resistance to the poison.  The poison resistance allows the Garter snake to eat the newts without ill effects.  The poison resistance is localized and the snakes can only eat the newts from the same location the snakes are from.  The brightly colored newt is in itself a warning to potential predators that it is deadly.


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