California Newt, Coast Range Newt
© 2009 Robert B. Douglas (1 of 120)
Taricha torosa may be distinguished from close relatives (T. granulosa and T. rivularis) by the Y-shaped pattern of the vomerine teeth, the light-colored lower eyelids, relatively large eyes, and lack of a tomato red belly. The defensive posture differs between T. torosa and T. granulosa (see below) (Petranka 1998).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: United States
U.S. state distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: California
Terrestrial adults are found in mesic forests in relatively mountainous areas of northern California. Further south, they can be found in drier habitats such as oak woodlands or hilly grasslands. Sierran populations are found in habitats dominated by conifers (digger pines-blue oak and ponderosa pine communities) (Petranka 1998). Breeding sites include ponds, reservoirs, and slow moving streams. Sierran populations breed in faster moving streams than coastal populations (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
All species of Taricha possess the potent neurotoxin tetrodotoxin, that is used as an antipredator defense (Brodie et al. 1974). Tetrodotoxin is also harmful to humans (e.g. Petranka 1998). 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. granulosa, which curls the tip of the tail (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998).
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
This species was formerly a subspecies, Taricha torosa torosa, and now both T. t. torosa and T. t. sierrae are recognized as a full species respectively(Kuchta 2007).
UC Berkeley's Botanical Garden Director explains Newts mating onsite:
Deep Look into Newts
This species was featured as News of the Week on March 23, 2020:
Climate change is a growing threat to amphibians, in large part because of more frequent extreme heat and drought events. Using 10 years of survey and mark-recapture data, Bucciarelli et al. (2020) recently showed that populations of California newts (Taricha torosa) – a widespread species across California – have been impacted by extreme climate events in recent years, particularly in southern California where climate change is already more pronounced. Specifically, from 2008 to 2016, California newt body condition (body mass relative to newt length) decreased by 20% in response to extreme heat and drought. Newt survival also decreased over time in response to climate change. These effects were not seen in the northern part of the California newt’s range where climate change has been less pronounced. Even so, modeling suggests that climate change in northern California will be as severe or worse for newt populations. This work highlights the critical impact climate change will have on amphibian population declines and extinctions in the coming years, both on its own and also by exacerbating other serious threats like habitat loss and disease (Written by Max Lambert).
See other species accounts at www.californiaherps.com.
Anzalone, C. R., Kats, L. B., and Gordon, M. S. (1998). "Effects of solar UV-B radiation on embryonic development in Hyla cadaverina, Hyla regilla, and Taricha torosa." Conservation Biology, 12(3), 646-653.
Blaustein, A. R., Hays, J. B., Hoffmann, P. D., and Kiescecker, J. M. (1998). "The role of solar UVB radiation in amphibian population declines." Photochemistry and Photobiology, 67(SPEC. ISSUE), 11S.
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.
Collins, J. T. (1991). "A new taxonomic arrangement for some North American amphibians and reptiles." Herpetological Review, 22, 42-43.
Gamradt, S. C. and Kats, L. B. (1996). ''Effect of introduced crayfish and mosquitofish on California newts.'' Conservation Biology, 10(4), 1155-1162.
Jennings, M. R., and Hayes, M. P. (1994). ''Amphibian and reptile species of special concern in California.'' Final Report #8023 Submitted to the California Department of Fish and Game. California Department of Fish and Game, Sacramento, California..
Kuchta, S. R. (2007). ''Contact zones and species limits: hybridization between lineages of the California Newt, Taricha torosa, in the southern Sierra Nevada.'' Herpetologica, 63, 332-350.
Nussbaum, R. A., and Brodie, E. D., Jr. (1981). ''Taricha torosa (Rathke). California Newt.'' Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 273.1-273.4.
Petranka, J. W. (1998). Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington D.C. 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.
Storer, T. I. (1925). "A synopsis of the amphibia of California." University of California Publications in Zoology, 27, 1-342.
Written by Erica Garcia and Meredith J. Mahoney (egarc AT uclink4.berkeley.edu, molge AT yahoo.com), Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley
First submitted 1999-02-22
Edited by M.S.Koo (2/2/2014); M. J. Mahoney, Arie van der Meijden(2/22/01); Kevin Gin (12/03); Ann T Chang (4/6/2020) (2020-04-06)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2020 Taricha torosa: California Newt <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/4290> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Sep 26, 2020.
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2020. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 26 Sep 2020.
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