AMPHIBIAWEB
Taricha granulosa
Rough-skinned newt, Roughskin newt, Northern Rough Skin Newt, Crater Lake newt
Subgenus: Taricha
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Pleurodelinae

© 2003 Jessica Miller (1 of 111)

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.


Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
See IUCN account.
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
CITES No CITES Listing
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status None

   

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Description
A stocky, large-bodied salamander. Dorsal coloration varies from light brown to blackish brown. The venter is light yellow to orangish red. Upper and lower eyelids are dark. The iris is yellow and the eyes are relatively small. This species has a dry, warty skin, except in mating season when adult males develop a smooth, even slimy, skin. The skin of both males and females is lighter colored during the mating season. Adults are 5.6-8.7 cm snout to vent length (12.5-22 cm total length). Some populations have adults which retain gills (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Hatchlings are 8-12 mm total length (Stebbins 1951; Riemer 1958). Larvae are pond type with busy gills ande a tail fin which extends foward to the shoulder area. Young larvae have a weak dorsal stripe which becomes diffuse a few weeks after hatching. The color pattern of older larvae is a mottled or reticulate pattern of pigmentation, usually with two rows of light spots on the sides of the body. A dark stripe extends from the nostril to the eye. Populations of T. granulosa in and around Crater Lake, Oregon, are sometimes treated as a distinct subspecies (T. g. mazamae) based on the presence of dark blotching on the venter (Nussbaum and Brodie 1981; Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).

Taricha granulosa may be distinguished from T. torosa by the V-shaped pattern of the palatine teeth (compared to Y-shaped), dark lower eyelid, and less protruberant eyes. These species also differ in their defensive posture (see below) (Stebbins 1985).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Canada, United States

U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Alaska, California, Idaho, Montana, Oregon, Washington

Canadian province distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: British Columbia

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
This species ranges from southwestern Alaska, along the coast of North America through British Columbia, Canada, Washington, Oregon, and California to the San Francisco Bay area. Terrestrial habitat is forests in hilly or mountainous areas, occasionally grasslands or pastures. Aquatic habitat includes seasonally ephemeral ponds, as well as lakes and sluggish areas of streams. Rarely found in fast-flowing water (Riemer 1958; Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Rough-skinned newts migrate annually to and from their aquatic breeding sites. Migration occurs primarily in rainy weather when the temperature is >5º. Breeding season varies with latitude, and has been recorded over most months of the year with a peak from March to early May. Courtship includes a period of amplexus of the female by the male. During amplexus, the male rubs his head over the females. Fertilization is internal by means of a spermatophore, deposited by the male on the substrate and picked up by the female in her cloaca. Oviposition takes place shortly after mating. Eggs are layed singly, attached to submerged vegetation, rootlets, or detritus. (Nussbaum and Brodie 1981; Petranka 1998). Development time and length of the larval period vary geographically. Larvae eat small aquatic invertebrates. Prey of adults includes aquatic and terrestrial invertebrates, and also amphibian larvae and eggs (Petranka 1998).

While T. granulosa is the most toxic newt in North America, all species of Taricha possess the potent neurotoxin known as tetrodotoxin. This serves the newt as an antipredator defense, and is also harmful to humans (Brodie et al. 1974; Petranka 1998). Despite their toxicity, newts are subject to predation by racoons and garter snakes (Thamnophis.) Thamnophis sirtalis is a specialist predator on newts and has evolved resistance to the tetrodotoxin (Brodie and Brodie 1990; Petranka 1998; Motychak et al. 1999). When harassed, Taricha assume the “unken reflex” where the head is raised, the tail is turned up and held straight over the body, the limbs are extended, and the eyes are closed (Riemer 1958; Brodie 1977). This action exposes the bright aposomatic coloration found on the newt's belly. The exact pattern of this reflex is a species-specific character, distinguishable from sympatric T. torosa, which holds the tail straight, while T. granulosa curls the tip (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).

Trends and Threats
Regional differences exist in the preferred habitat of T. granulosa. Populations in the Cascades and Coast Range of Washington are most dense in mature and old-growth forests (Aubry and Hall 1991; Corn and Bury 1991), while popuations in the Oregon Cascades are relatively dense in younger stands. These differences should be considered for species management. Logging has a negative impact on the terrestrial habitat and migration corridors of this species and this should be investigated in detail (Petranka 1998).

Relation to Humans
The most toxic newt, Taricha granulosa has been responsible for severe illness and even death of people who have eaten it (e. g., Petranka 1998). Care should be taken when handling these animals. Wash hands after holding newts and do not touch eyes or mouth area.

Comments

See another account at californiaherps.com.

References
 

Aubry, K. B., and Hall, P. A. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the southern Washington Cascade Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. Ruggiero, L. F., Aubry, K. B., Carey, A. B., and Huff, M. H., technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 326-338.  

Brodie, E. D., III, and Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1990). ''Tetrodotoxin resistance in garter snakes: An evolutionary response of predators to dangerous prey.'' Evolution, 44, 651-659.  

Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1977). "Salamander antipredator postures." Copeia, 1977, 523-535.  

Brodie, E. D., Jr., Hensel, J. L., and Johnson, J. A. (1974). ''Toxicity of the urodele amphibians Taricha, Notophthalmus, Cynops, and Paramesotriton (Family Salamandridae).'' Copeia, 1974(2), 506-511.  

Corn, P. S. and Bury, R. B. (1991). ''Terrestrial amphibian communities in the Oregon Coast Range.'' Wildlife and Vegetation of Unmanaged Douglas-fir Forests, General Technical Report PNW-GTR-285. K. Ruggiero, B. Aubry, A. B. Carey, and M. H. Huff, technical coordinators, eds., USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Olympia, Washington., 304-317.  

Motychak, J. E., E. D. Brodie, Jr., and E. D. Brodie, III (1999). "Evolutionary response of predators to dangerous prey: Preadaptation and the evolution of tetrodotoxin resistance in garter snakes." Evolution, 53, 1528-1535.  

Nussbaum, R. A., and Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1981). ''Taricha granulosa (Skilton). Rough-skinned Newt.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 272.1-272.4.  

Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington and London.  

Riemer, W. J. (1958). "Variation and systematic relationships within the salamander genus Taricha." University of California Publications in Zoology, 56(3), 301-390.  

Stebbins, R. C. (1985). A Field Guide to Western Reptiles and Amphibians. Houghton Mifflin, Boston.  

Stebbins, R.C. (1951). Amphibians of Western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley.



Written by Meredith J. Mahoney (molge AT yahoo.com), Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley
First submitted 2000-07-28
Edited by M. J. Mahoney, Kevin Gin (12/03) (2014-02-02)



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Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2014. Berkeley, California: AmphibiaWeb. Available: http://amphibiaweb.org/. (Accessed: Dec 19, 2014).

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