Central Newt

Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis

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Photo of a central newt adult on a plastic aquarium plant.
The central newt lives in and around woodland ponds and swamps in all but our far northwestern counties.
Jim Rathert
Family

Salamandridae (newts) in the order Caudata (salamanders)

Description

The adult central newt is a small aquatic salamander without gills or costal grooves (vertical grooves along the sides). The back is olive brown and the belly bright orange yellow. Some very small red spots ringed with black may be along the back on both sides of the spine. Numerous small black spots usually cover the body. A dark line runs from the nostril through the eye to the forelimbs.

For a couple of years in the middle (“eft”) stage of their life cycle, central newts live on land. Efts are dull brown to reddish brown, with a rounded tail and rough, almost bumpy skin. The youngest, larval individuals are aquatic and have gills. Upon hatching, they are about ¼ inch long.

Size

Adult length: 2½–4 inches; efts 1¼–3¼ inches.

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Photo of a central newt eft on a white background.
Central Newt (Eft)
Central newts have a complex life cycle, with two mostly aquatic stages separated by a land-dwelling “eft” stage.

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Photo of a central newt adult suspended in water.
Central Newt (Adult)
The adult central newt has an olive brown back, and numerous small black spots usually cover the body.

central_newt_eft_12-10-14.jpg

Photo of a central newt eft showing bumpy skin.
Central Newt (Eft)
Central newts live on land in the middle, or “eft” stage of their life cycle.

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Photo of a central newt eft on a leaf.
Central Newt (Eft)
Central newt efts take shelter under logs, rocks, or piles of dead leaves in wooded areas.

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Photo of a central newt eft sticking out its tongue.
Central Newt (Eft)
Central newt efts eat small insects and tiny snails they find under logs and rocks.
Habitat and conservation

Adults live in woodland ponds, swamps, and occasionally water-filled ditches. They are seldom numerous in ponds that harbor fish or that lack aquatic plants. The efts take shelter under logs, rocks, or piles of dead leaves in wooded areas and may travel far from the ponds they hatched in. Newts are active throughout the year and have been seen swimming under ice. The central newt is the only member of its family in Missouri.

Foods

Adult newts eat small aquatic invertebrates such as worms, small mollusks, insects, crayfish, salamander larvae, and small tadpoles. The terrestrial efts eat small insects and tiny snails they find under logs and rocks. The aquatic larvae eat smaller aquatic invertebrates.

Central Newt Distribution Map
Distribution in Missouri

Throughout most of the state. Mainly found in forested regions, especially the Ozarks; absent from the northwestern corner.

Life cycle

Central newts have a complex life cycle. Breeding occurs in late March through early May. Fertilization is internal. Over a period of weeks in May and June, a female can lay 200–375 eggs, singly, on aquatic plants. These hatch after 3–5 weeks. The larvae live in water until late July or early August, then transform into land-dwelling efts. After living 2–3 years on land, they return to a pond or swamp, change into adults, and spend the rest of their lives mostly in water.

Human connections

Humans can play a role in protecting our newt populations. If you own land, provide or protect fishless woodland ponds, swamps, and small sloughs, downed logs, brush piles, and other forest-floor debris.

Ecosystem connections

ewts have few predators because they produce toxic skin secretions that make them taste bad. Interestingly, one study showed the skin of efts to be up to 10 times more toxic than that of the aquatic adults.

Scientists have suggested several explanations for the unusual life cycle of newts. The terrestrial eft stage is apparently an adaptive boon when natal ponds are small, likely to dry up, crowded with newt larvae or other animals competing for food, and/or likely to hold predators, and when nearby terrestrial habitats offer plenty of food compared to the natal pond. Also, moving onto land encourages dispersal of individuals, which then can discover new ponds and unrelated newts to mate with.