Red Spotted Newt

Newts are familiar to most people, or at least the word “newt” is, whether as the name of one of the US’s more infamous politicians or as the thing you get turned into when you annoy a witch. But what is a newt, exactly?

It’s a type of salamander. There are many species of newts, but the only one in my area is the red spotted newt, or Eastern newt, which lives throughout most of eastern North America.

Like the mole salamander, the newt has a complicated life cycle. It, too, hatches from eggs laid in ponds, and its larval form is aquatic. So is its adult form. But it has another, in-between stage in which it lives on land. Newts in this stage are called “efts.” They are the form most commonly seen — not only because they live on land instead of in ponds, but also because efts are red. (They’re also poisonous. Their color acts as a warning.)

Red Spotted Newt (Eft)
Eft from western North Carolina


After a couple years of this carefree land-roaming lifestyle, the newt returns to the water to reproduce. Its red color fades to olive green, keeping only the red dots on its back. It grows a fin-like ridge on its tail, which helps it swim. The newt lives mostly in water for the rest of its life. That can be a long time — newts can live 15 years or more!

Red Spotted Newt (Adult)
Red Spotted Newt (Adult) from northwest FL

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Ethan Harvey

You can find my games at, and I occasionally blog about under-appreciated wildlife at

6 thoughts on “Red Spotted Newt”

  1. The smooth newts in our Yorkshire garden disappear from the pond in late summer and reappear in the spring. The books tell me that adult European newts live on land and only return to ponds in the breeding season, but I’ve never come across one out of the water.

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    1. Oh, cool. American newts can leave the water but rarely do – usually only to get rid of leeches. They can also burrow into the mud if the pond dries or freezes. We have several other salamanders and frogs that live on land but spend most of their time in burrows or under the leaf litter. Maybe that’s what your newts do?

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