Pachytriton brevipes
Paddle-Tailed Newt, Black-spotted Stout Newt; Pachytriton tachete
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Pleurodelinae
Taxonomic Notes: The genera Pachytriton and Paramesotriton have had a confused taxonomic history, complicated by the fact that a number of these salamanders have long been in the pet trade, identified as Paddletailed and Warty Newts, respectively. In 1985 Frost (Amphibian Species of the World) recognized only one Pachytriton, P. brevipes, and 5 Paramesotriton. At present 8 species of Pachytriton and 13 species of Paramesotriton are recognized. The pet trade long identified the following biological entities: Phenotypes Pachytriton A, B, C and D, none of them assignable to P. brevipes. Eventually Pachytriton labiatus was associated with phenotype A, but the other phenotypes were of uncertain taxonomy. In 2011 Nishikawa et al. discovered that the nomen labiatus belongs to a biological entity that had been recently named Paramesotriton ermizhaoi, and Phenotype A was assigned to Pachytriton granulosus (which had been in the synonymy of other taxa). Raffaelli (Les Urodeles de Monde, 2nd Ed 2013) thinks that Phenotypes A are taxonomically heterogenous, and include in addition to Pachytriton granulosus, Pachytriton feii, Pachytriton moi and Pachytriton inexpectatus; Phenotype B is thought to be Pachytriton changi (and we think also Pachytriton xanthospilos); Phenotype C is thought to be Paramesotriton labiatus; Phenotype D is thought to be Paramesotriton archospotus. No members of the genus Paramesotriton (Warty Newts) should be called Paddletailed newts; that name should refer only to Pachytriton (which are also known as Stout Newts). For formal taxonomic history see Amphibian Species of the World website.
Species Description: Wu Y., Murphy R. W. 2015 Concordant species delimitation from multiple independent evidence: A case study with the Pachytriton brevipes complex (Caudata: Salamandridae)

© 2016 Axel Hernandez (1 of 4)

AmphibiaChina 中国两栖类.

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
See IUCN account.
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None


A moderate to large newt. Fully grown adults can attain more than 170 mm in total length (90 mm in snout-vent length). The total length of most individuals is between 130 and 170 mm. Tail is shorter than the snout-vent length. Head is wide and flat, and trunk is stout and fat. Skin is very smooth with mucus. Small nostrils situated at tip of the somewhat flat snout. Eyes are small, and located at or anterior to the jaw angle. Well developed labial folds are present on upper jaw. Two lines of vomerine teeth orient in a ¦«-shaped manner, converging anteriorly. Transverse gular fold is often obvious on the ventral side. Parotoid region is evident, but the parotoid gland itself is absent (Sauvage 1876). Some specimen exhibits a vertebral groove. Both limbs are short and weak with respect to the robust body. When forelimb and hind limb are pressed towards each other against the flank, digits never meet (Fei et al. 2006). The fingers and toes are short, and their tips are flat and rounded. Webs are present at the base of digits in some animals, whereas others are nearly half-webbed. The lengths of fingers are 3 > 2 > 4 > 1, and the lengths of toes are 3 > 4 > 2 > 5 > 1. Tail is rounded at the anterior half, and become laterally compressed for the posterior half. Sexually mature males possess papillae at the cloaca. Juveniles have relatively longer limbs, but otherwise are similar to adults.

Animals are dark brown to light yellow on the dorsal side in life. Ventral color is lighter to even bright orange. Numerous black dots are scattered around the body and tail, and intensify on the dorsum (Fei et al. 2006). When preserved in alcohol, the background color becomes palish brown on top and ivory brown below (Chang 1936). The size and density of black dots varies intraspecifically. Some newts lack black dots on the ventral side, and some are entirely spotless (Fei et al. 2006). During the breeding season, males develop a few white spots near the tip of the tail.

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: China

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Pachytriton brevipes is distributed in Southeastern China (Zhejiang, Jiangxi, Hunan, Fujian, Guangdong, Guangxi Provinces) and Northern Vietnam (Fei et al. 2006). It is associated with montane broadleaf and mixed forests at 800 to 1700 m above sea level (Fei et al. 2006).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The species lives in various montane streams, which can be a mere one meter wide and 20 cm deep. Large number of animals can also be found in slow-running ponds with depth more than a meter. They are most abundant in rock-bound streams at higher elevation. During daytime, the newts rest at the bottom or hide in the crevices (Fei et al. 2006), and may feed on small prey such as frog tadpoles (Pope 1931), they are more active and abundant at night. Pachytriton brevipes is never observed to leave the stream, thus it is probably permanently aquatic (Pope 1931; Özeti and Wake, 1969). When captured or harassed, the animal emanates a strong sulfurate odor (Pope 1931; Fei et al. 2006). From the author¡¯s field experiences, the secreted mucous is at least lethal to other amphibians.

Breeding season is from May and lasts until August. Males have a swollen cloaca with protruded papillae, and a few whitish spots develop near the tip of the tail. Fertilization is internal through the delivery of spermatophores. Females lay 30 to 60 single eggs attached to the lower surface of rocks in the stream (Fei et al. 2006). Eggs are milky white and form a compact clutch. The ovum is around 4.5 mm in diameter and the egg attains 7.5 mm if jelly capsules are included (Fei et al. 2006). Since Pachytriton labiatus females vigorously guard the eggs, P. brevipes could have maternal care as well. Eggs hatch as free-living larvae. Both females and males are territorial and show aggression to intruders.

The animal feeds on aquatic arthropods and tadpoles of other amphibians. Insects that fall into the water are likely to be found in the stomach as well.

Trends and Threats
This newt is abundant in its range, yet no detailed work has recorded the population dynamics. Local inhabitants may collect them for consumption (Fei et al. 2006). Pachytriton brevipes is poisoned when people poison the entire stream to catch fish. Although this species is indirectly protected if it occurs in national parks, there is no regulation of wild exploitation (IUCN 2006).

Possible reasons for amphibian decline

General habitat alteration and loss
Habitat modification from deforestation, or logging related activities
Intensified agriculture or grazing
Prolonged drought
Drainage of habitat
Dams changing river flow and/or covering habitat
Subtle changes to necessary specialized habitat
Habitat fragmentation
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Long-distance pesticides, toxins, and pollutants
Loss of genetic diversity from small population phenomena
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)
Loss of distinctiveness through hybridization
Climate change, increased UVB or increased sensitivity to it, etc.

Pachytriton is a common newt in the commercial pet trade. Novel color patterns are frequently being recognized, providing the basis of classifying new phenotypes. Thiesmeier and Hornberg (1997) described two potential new species (Pachytriton A and B in their paper) and discussed their difference to the two named species, mainly in the context of coloration. The males of Pachytriton A exhibited ornamental white and blue spots throughout the tail during mating season, making this phenotype most sexually dimorphic. Otherwise the adults are chromatically similar to P. brevipes. However, juveniles of Pachytriton A are spotless (similar to the coloration of P. labiatus) but develop black dots when older. Thus Thiesmeier and Hornberg (2003) considered Pachytriton A as closer to P. labiatus. Correspondingly, Pachytriton B lacks the distinctive dark spots as in P. brevipes, but has small dorsolateral red flecks stretching like ribbon which can be observed in P. labiatus. Yet the animal is brighter and much flatter and stouter than characteristic P. labiatus. Scholz (1998) reported the discovery of Pachytriton C, which is cloudy brown with vague black flecks dorsally and dirty orange underneath. In contrast to the normal smooth skin found in Pachytriton, the skin of Pachytriton C is relatively rough. Lastly, Raffaelli and Wallays (pers. comm.) have distinguished a fourth new phenotype called Pachytriton D, which is the largest among all. The extremely wide head and muscular long limbs are diagnostic to congeners. Small diffused dark spots are visible on dark brown to chocolate brown dorsum, and lichen-like yellow markers are present on the ventral side.


Chang, M. L. Y. (1936). Contribution à l'étude morphologique, biologique et systèmatique des amphibiens urodèles de la Chine. Librairie Picart, Paris.

Fei, L., Hu, S., Ye, C., and Huang, Y. (2006). Fauna Sinica, Amphibia, Vol. 1. Science Press, Beijing (in Chinese).

IUCN, Conservation International, and NatureServe. 2006. Global Amphibian Assessment: Pachytriton brevipes. Accessed on 5 May 2008.

Pope, C. H. (1931). ''Notes on amphibians from Fukien, Hainan, and other parts of China.'' Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, 61, 397-611.

Sauvage, H. E. (1876). ''Sur quelques Batraciens de la Chine.'' L. Inst. (N. S.)., Paris, 4, 274-275.

Scholz, K. P. (1998). ''Über eine rauhhäutige Pachytriton-Art.'' Salamandra, 34, 375-380.

Thiesmeier, B., and Hornberg, C. (1997). ''Paarung, Fortpflanzung and Larvalentwicklung von Pachytriton sp. (Pachytriton A) nebst Bemerkungen zur Taxonomie der Gattung.'' Salamandra, 33, 97-110.

Thiesmeier, B., and Hornberg, C. (2003). ''The riddle of the Chinese newt, Pachytriton.'' Reptilia, The European Herp Magazine, 30, 43-50.

Özeti, N., and Wake, D. B. (1969). ''The morphology and evolution of the tongue and associated structures in salamanders and newts (family Salamandridae).'' Copeia, 1969, 91-123.

Written by Yunke Wu (yunkewu AT, MCZ, Harvard University
First submitted 2008-05-30
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2008-06-25)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2008 Pachytriton brevipes: Paddle-Tailed Newt <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Mar 26, 2017.

Feedback or comments about this page.


Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2017. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 26 Mar 2017.

AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.