Newt or Salamander? Yes!
Jim and I were taking a hike after a rain in late April and were delighted to come across this bright orange salamander with red spots – not just one, but five separate specimens on the same hike. It is about 3″ long and so delicate-looking that I was afraid to pick it up for fear of crushing it.
On a separate hike in the same location several days later, when it was much dryer, we did not see a single one – much to our disappointment.
Research revealed that it is a Red Spotted Newt and is quite common in the Eastern US. It seems like an odd name because its main color is orange, but I have to admit its spots are red – albeit with black circles reminiscent of a modern painting.
Habitat & Life Cycle
I learned that the deciduous forest we were hiking in was its native habitat (although they also like coniferous forests) and they need a moist environment with either a temporary or permanent body of water, and thrive best in a muddy environment. Red efts may often be seen in a forest after a rainstorm.
We saw them on a path near a ravine with runoff water from the hills. BINGO.
The specimens we saw were juveniles in their terrestrial life-cycle stage called an “eft” (stage 2).
“During this stage, the eft may travel far, acting as a dispersal stage from one pond to another, ensuring outcrossing in the population. After two or three years, the eft finds a pond and transforms into the aquatic adult.”
I had mentioned seeing this orange colored salamander to a resident and they had never seen one before. I am guessing that they are not in the habit of hiking after a rain. Changing your habits can lead to new adventures and discoveries!
Fun Salamander Facts
It is amazing what you can learn when you start digging. Did you know that:
- Tennessee is well known throughout the scientific community
as a particularly hot spot for salamanders. The Great Smoky
Mountains National Park has earned the title of “Salamander
Capital of the World.” (source has beautiful poster of many of the different species of salamander)
- In 1995, in recognition of Tennessee’s unique natural heritage, the state legislature designated the Tennessee cave salamander as our official State Amphibian.