DEP Home : Water : Biological Monitoring : Salamanders and Newts in our Midst
Salamanders originated 150 million years ago during the Triassic period. There are 380 species world wide, and at least 230 are found in the Americas. 10 species have been identified in Montgomery County. They are a nocturnal species and may live from one year to sixty years.
Salamanders vary in that some species are aquatic, some are terrestrial, and some are semi-aquatic, spending part of the time in the water and part on land. Many salamanders are born in the water with gills and as they grow they develop lungs and become terrestrial. Some species retain their gills through their life. Salamanders are able to take up oxygen through the skin; the lungless salamander can also take up oxygen through the membrane of the mouth. Whether aquatic or terrestrial, salamanders need moisture for survival and are only found in wet or damp environments.
Salamanders are clawless and have short, smooth, moist bodies with a long tail. They do not have scales. Salamanders are unable to hear sounds but can sense sound through vibrations in the ground. Their sight and sense of smell are well developed. They are able to smell and taste using their tongue.
Salamanders have small teeth on the upper and lower jaw. They have mucus-forming glands that help to keep them moist (important for survival). These glands also expel toxic secretions when the animal senses danger. They have the ability to drop their tail as a defense mechanism and the tail can regenerate (grow back).
Salamanders do not hibernate. They shed their skin every few days to every few weeks depending on the species, except during cold weather when they do not shed at all. They are found in cool, moist environments and can often be found under rocks or logs. Their carnivorous diet consists mainly of worms, insects, and other salamanders.
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Newts are in the Order Caudata, Family Salamandridae. Newts are very similar to salamanders with a few differences. The skin of the newt is rougher and not as slimy. The life stage of the eastern newts is unique (this includes the species found in Montgomery County).
The newt is born in the water, and as the larvae transforms into the red eft form it moves to land for one to three years. After this time, the eft will return to the water and change into an aquatic adult. Sometimes, the red eft stage is passed over and the newt remains aquatic throughout its entire life cycle. When this occurs, there is a chance the newt will retain remnants of its gills even as an adult. Efts have brightly colored skin, a round tail, and very rough skin. Adult newts have olive-brown skin, a vertically compressed tail, and smoother skin.
A newt's diet consists mainly of leeches, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, frog eggs, insects, and juvenile amphibians. Efts primarily eat insects. Newts do not have many predators due to their skin excretions, which most predators find toxic or irritating.
There is one species of newt in Montgomery County.
These salamanders and newts are found along Montgomery County stream banks, in wetlands areas and woods, and in other prime wildlife habitat.