Cynops orientalis
Oriental Fire-bellied Newt
Subgenus: Cynotriton
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Pleurodelinae
Taxonomic Notes: Placed in Hypselotriton (Cynotriton) by Dubois and Raffaelli 2009, 2012 Alytes.

© 2004 Jessica Miller (1 of 35)

AmphibiaChina 中国两栖类.

Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
Other International Status NONE
National Status NONE
Regional Status NONE


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A relatively small newt. Females are larger than males. The total length is around 80 mm for females and 60~65 mm for males, and the snout-vent length is 45 mm and 40 mm, respectively (Li et al. 2005; Fei et al. 2006). Males possess a shorter tail with higher caudal fin. Head is flat, but not broad. The rounded snout is somewhat truncated (Fei et al. 2006). Eyes are large and situated anterior to the angle of the jaw, where the upper labial fold is evident. Parotoid glands are well developed. Two lines of vomerine teeth orient in a ¦«-shaped manner, converging anteriorly. The skin is smooth, yet densely covered with small granulae. A vertebral ridge is noticeable. Limbs are gracile. When forelimb and hind limb are pressed towards each other against the flank, fingers overlap with toes. No webs are present between these slender digits (Fei et al. 2006). The lengths of fingers are 3 > 2 > 4 > 1, and the lengths of toes are 3 > 4 > 2 > 5 > 1. Tail is laterally compressed and attenuates towards the tip, which is rounded and blunt. Sexually mature males have dark brown papillae (0.5~2.6 mm) at the swollen cloaca (Yang and Shen 1993).

Cynops orientalis has a dark black dorsum in life. Most animals are uniform dark in background color, whereas some individuals have lighter flecks and some are tannish gray. Dorsal color may switch among above variations from time to time. Unlike C. cyanurus and C. chenggongensis, this species lacks an orange spot behind the eye. The ventral side is bright orange or red, scattered with black markings. The base of each limb, the anterior part of the cloaca and the ventral caudal fin are orange, while the posterior part of the cloaca is black. The orange coloration becomes ivory white in alcohol-stored specimens (Fei et al. 2006).

Hatchlings are about 10~12 mm in length. Larvae have a brown dorsum and lighter ventral side. It takes from 50 to 80 days from hatching to metamorphosis. Newly metamorphosed juveniles are around 30 mm in total length (Yang and Shen 1993).

Distribution and Habitat

Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: China


View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
Cynops orientalis is widely distributed at the lower reach of Yangtze River and adjacent area, including Henan, Hubei, Anhui, Jiangsu, Zhejiang, Jiangxi and Fujian Provinces. It is found in low and middle elevation foothills ranging from 30 to 1000 m above sea level, associated with bodies of still water (Fei et al. 2006).

Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The species inhabits still ponds, rice terraces or ditches. The substrate is often muddy. Flourishing aquatic vegetation makes good habitat for both hiding and oviposition. They also find shelters in crevices between rocks that build up the terrace wall. In Zhengjiang Province where the winter is mild, this newt does not hibernate, and can be found all year around. In other populations, individuals stay under water or in crevices on the ground over winter (Fei et al. 2006).

The breeding season begins in March and ends in July, with a peak from late April to middle May (Fei et al. 2006). The suitable water temperature is 15~23 degrees C (Yang and Shen 1993). Courtship behavior in captivity has been recorded in detail by Sparreboom and Faria (1997). After the male approaches the female, he carefully sniffs at her and she may sniff back. Then the male positions itself in front of her in a perpendicular angle, and rapidly vibrates his tail tip, fanning towards her snout. If the female is responsive, she stays still or move towards the male. Otherwise she swims away. After the male turns around and begins to retreat, the female follows. The male raises his back and tail in an excited manner when leading the female. Finally, he deposits a spermatophore and the female picks it up. The male may bite and hold the female afterwards, probably to secure her from other males.

The female lays a single egg (or 2~4 eggs) on the ventral surface of aquatic leaf 2-10 cm below the water (Yang and Shen 1993). She may fold the leaf with her legs to conceal the egg (Fei et al. 2006). Then she takes a rest and looks for another leaf to oviposit. Most eggs are laid during night (Yang and Shen 1993). The ovum is 2 mm in diameter, with the animal hemisphere in brown and vegetal hemisphere in yellow (Fei et al. 2006). There are three layers of jelly capsules. A single female can lay around 100 eggs in one breeding season (Fei et al. 2006). The eggs hatch in 13~24 days (Yang and Shen 1993). The annual male to female ratio is 2.3:1 (Yang and Shen 1993).

Cynops orientalis feeds on small aquatic animals such as worms and insect larvae (Fei et al. 2006).

Trends and Threats
This is a common and abundant species in its range. Large numbers of wild-caught animals appear in the pet trade every year. Due to its abundance and cheap price, C. orientalis is used either for educational purposes or as research material (Fei et al. 2006). The whole animal can also be used in traditional Chinese medicine to cure skin itch or burning (Fei et al. 2006). Currently, the major crises faced by C. orientalis include the use of herbicide or insecticide in rice terraces, and human 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
Predators (natural or introduced)
Intentional mortality (over-harvesting, pet trade or collecting)
Climate change, increased UVB or increased sensitivity to it, etc.


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

Li, S.C., Liu, X.L., and Hao, X. (2005). ''Morphologic observation and anatomical study on Cynops orientalis.'' Chinese Journal of Veterinary Science and Technology, 35, 60-63.

Sparreboom, M., and Faria, M. M. (1997). ''Sexual behaviour of the Chinese fire-bellied newt, Cynops orientalis.'' Amphibia-Reptilia, 18, 27-38.

Yang, D., and Shen, Y. (1993). ''Studies on the breeding ecology of Cynops orientalis.'' Zoological Research, 14, 215-220.

Written by Yunke Wu (yunkewu AT, MCZ, Harvard University
First submitted 2008-05-30
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2008-06-27)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2008 Cynops orientalis: Oriental Fire-bellied Newt <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Oct 20, 2017.

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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2017. <> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 20 Oct 2017.

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