redspotted newt (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens)
CHARACTERISTICS: Redspotted newts live through three distinct
life stages: 1) aquatic larvae (tadpole), 2) terrestrial adult (red eft), 3)
aquatic adult (newt). The aquatic adult has a olive green to yellow
brown dorsum, and pale to yellow belly covered with black dots.
There are as many as 21 red dots, bordered with black, present
throughout all life stages. Sometimes these are arranged roughly in
two rows down the back. The smooth skin secretes a noxious sub-
stance when injured. The red eft is brick red to orange red in color,
with many black dots, and a dorsolateral row of black edged red spots.
Color may range from yellow- or red-brown immediately after trans-
forming from larval stage, to very dark brown right before transform-
ing into an adult. It measures 1 3/8 - 3 3/8 in. (3.5 - 8.6 cm). It stays
in the red eft stage from 1-3 years. In some areas it metamorphoses
directly into the aquatic adult form. The tadpole is brown green. Dur-
ing the winter the male, aquatic newt undergoes morphological
changes in preparation to mate. Metamorphosis occurs in approximate-
ly 3 months. In the coastal plain, this species often does not enter the
terrestrial stage, but remains aquatic.
DISTRIBUTION: This species occurs statewide in Virginia. Adults live
in ponds, lakes, and pools near streams. Efts inhabit moist, forested areas.
They continue to be active through the winter, and occasionally are seen
moving about under the ice. Terrestrial efts avoid direct sunlight but are
very bold, moving about singly or in large numbers on the forest floor
during the daytime.
FOODS: Natural food includes insects, leeches, worms, tiny mollusks
and crustaceans, young amphibians, and frogs' eggs. Captive aquatic
adults will eat small pieces of meat, but crumbs of canned dog food make
a better balanced diet. Efts respond most readily to live insects.
Crooked Run Valley