AMPHIBIAWEB
Taricha torosa
California Newt, Coast Range Newt
Subgenus: Taricha
family: Salamandridae
subfamily: Pleurodelinae

Jo-Ann Ordano
© 2004 California Academy of Sciences (1 of 118)
Conservation Status (definitions)
IUCN (Red List) Status Least Concern (LC)
NatureServe Status Use NatureServe Explorer to see status.
CITES No CITES Listing
Other International Status None
National Status None
Regional Status Taricha torosa is a species of special concern in southern California, specifically those populations south of the Salinas River in Monterey Co. to San Diego Co. (Jennings and Hayes 1994).

 

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.

   

Description
A large-bodied salamander. Terrestrial adults have a light brown to dark brown dorsum with a yellowish to orange belly. The skin is dry with small bumps or warts and costal grooves are not visible. The eyes are large and the lower eyelids are yellow. Adult males in the breeding season develop smooth or slimy skin, a lighter body color, enlarged tail fins, and swollen cloacal glands (Storer, 1925; Stebbins, 1985). Adults are 6.9 - 8.7 cm snout to vent lenght (12.5 - 20 cm total length) (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Two allopatric subspecies are currently recognized based on geographic distribution (see below) and coloration. Taricha t. sierrae, the Sierra newt, is reddish to chocolate brown dorsally and burnt orange to yellow below. The eyelids and snout have conspicuous light coloring. Taricha t. torosa, the Coast Range newt, is yellowish to dark brown dorsally and pale yellow to orange ventrally. The eyelids and snout are not as conspicuously colored as in T. t. sierrae. (Riemer 1958; Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Hatchlings are 10-14 mm total length. The larvae are pond type with bushy gills, balancer organs and a well-developed dorsal tail fin which extends forward to the shoulder region (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). The dorsum of larvae is light yellow with two dark, narrow bands (Riemer 1958; Stebbins 1985).

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

 

View distribution map using BerkeleyMapper.
The Coast Range newt, T. t. torosa, ranges from Mendocino Co. south through the Coast Range to the western slope of the Peninsular ranges in San Diego Co. The southern-most locality (San Diego Co.) is isolated geographically from the remaining coastal populations. A gap in the distribution also exists in Santa Barbara Co. (Jennings and Hayes 1994; Stebbins 1985). The Sierra newt, T. t. sierrae, has a disjunct population in Shasta Co. and ranges along the western slopes of the Sierra Nevada south to Kern Co. (Stebbins 1985).

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
The breeding season ranges from late December and early May, depending on location, and lasts 6-12 weeks. Breeding aggregations form primarily in ponds and lakes. Stream-breeding is more common in sierran populations and tends to occur late in the season for coastal populations. Courtship involves amplexus of the female by the male who then rubs his head on hers. Eventually the male deposits a spermatophore on the substrate which the female picks up in her cloaca. Shortly after mating, the female lays her eggs in small clusters containing 7-30 eggs. Time to hatching ranges from 2 weeks to 2 1/2 months, depending on water temperature. Diet items include earthworms, snails, slugs, insects, and conspecific eggs and larvae. See Petranka (1998) for references.

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
Loss and degradation of stream habitats, and predation on eggs and larvae by introduced predators such as crayfish and mosquitofish, are a serious concern for populations of T. t. torosa in southern California (Jennings and Hayes 1994; Gamradt and Kats 1996). Road-kill is also a large source of adult mortality. Furthermore, UV-B radiation has been shown to cause reduced hatching success (Anzalone et al. 1998; Blaustein et al. 1998).

Relation to Humans
No known relation.

Comments
Extremely warty newts found in many localities in San Diego County have been described as a separate subspecies, T. t. klauberi (Riemer 1958). This subspecies is not currently recognized because the presence of warts is thought to be caused by a pathogenic agent (Stebbins 1951; 1985).

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

See other species accounts at www.californiaherps.com.

References

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 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) (2018-04-27)

Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2018 Taricha torosa: California Newt <http://amphibiaweb.org/species/4290> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed Nov 17, 2018.



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Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2018. <http://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 17 Nov 2018.

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