Post by Gianni Maffessanti, High School Intern, Spring 2023
Salamanders are a common sighting on the trails of the Birds of Vermont Museum. The Eastern Newt is a salamander that can be found throughout the Eastern United States. Eastern Newts are often greenish brown in color. They often have small red dots surrounded by a black color along their tails and backs. They are commonly found in ponds, or the shallows of lakes where they will lay their eggs. They eat many small organisms found in their habitats including, small crustaceans, insect larva, and mollusks. They have also been known to eat the eggs and larvae of other amphibians. The Eastern Newt will often stay in the water until they die. However, when they first hatch into Red Efts, they leave their birth place in the water. They roam the forests and can often be found in wet areas under rock and logs. They eat insects, worms, snails, and other small animals that live alongside them. They can spend two to seven years out of the water before finally returning to the water to become fully mature adults.
Salamander photos by Gianni Maffessanti and used with permission.
At all stages of life the Eastern Newt has toxic skin. This discourages many predatory fish from preying on them. However, when the Red Efts are living on land they sport a bright red coloration. This is likely helpful in keeping predators away as it warns them that the Red Eft is dangerous to eat. The Red Eft has the highest concentration of poison glands of all of the Eastern Newts life stages. Despite their poisonous secretions, they are harmless to humans (as long as you don’t eat them, of course). After spending several years on land they will return to the water where they will likely spend the remainder of their lives. Although the Eastern Newt will often spend the remainder of their life in ponds, they are able to leave and can do so if their pond dries up. Upon returning to land, typically in late winter and early spring, they can regain the skin texture they had when they were Red Efts, which is better suited for living on land.
The Eastern Newt can be seen swimming in the pond here at the Birds of Vermont Museum, where you can get a glimpse of its fascinating lifecycle.
New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. “Eastern (Red-Spotted) Newt – Watchable Wildlife”. Accessed 14 June 2023. https://www.dec.ny.gov/animals/67022.html.
Harding, James H. “Amphibians and Reptiles of the Great Lakes Region”.