Tiny Hikers: California Newts

Meet the California Newt, a species that secretes a neurotoxin and only lives in California!

Places to See California Newts

Purisima creek circle

Purisima Creek Redwoods Preserve


The California newt is endemic to California, meaning that it can only be found in our state.

California newts are only found along California’s coast and mountain ranges. Its range extends from Mendocino County down to San Diego County.

Like most amphibians, California newts live a dual lifestyle: they spend half of their time in water and half on land.

Adult California newts migrate annually to ponds and streams for breeding. The first rains in the fall usually initiate these migrations, which occur at night.

Males and females will mate in ponds, and females lay eggs on submerged vegetation and rocks. The eggs hatch into a larval form of the newt, similar to tadpoles that turn into frogs. The newt larva spends 2 weeks in the water, growing to lose its tail fin and gills.

Adult California newts vary in size and color.

Adults range from 4.9 to 7.8 inches long from snout to tail.

Their coloration on top varies from dark brown to orange, and their bottom ranges from yellow to orange. No matter their color variations, they are always darker on top than they are on bottom. Their skin has a rough appearance.

California newts appear very similar to other species of California newts, so be careful during identification. When you encounter a newt, pay close attention to clues like your location, the newt’s general coloration and skin texture, the coloration of the skin around the newt’s eyes, and the shape of the newt’s eyes. For an excellent guide on identification, check out this page by CaliforniaHerps.com. Also, be sure to take plenty of photos for reference!

California newts are listed by the California Department of Fish & Wildlife as a “Species of Special Concern”.

Populations of California newts in Southern California have suffered due to habitat loss. The ponds and streams that they need to breed have been destroyed by development. Introduced species (such as fish, crayfish, and bullfrogs) also pose a threat to California newts, since the introduced species are known to eat California newt eggs and larvae.

California newts eat small insects, molluscs, and the eggs of their own kind!

Their diet varies widely to include lots of insects and terrestrial molluscs (think snails and slugs). California newts have also been recorded eating the eggs and larvae of other amphibians, including their own species.

Cool facts about California newts:

  • California newts possess a toxin called “tetrodotoxin” in their skin. This toxin is the same chemical found in pufferfish.
  • California newts will migrate to the same breeding ponds that they grew up in.

Resources to learn more:

Author: Taylor Crisologo

Taylor studied biology at Cornell University, where she worked with the Cornell Lab of Ornithology on projects ranging from breeding herring gulls off the coast of Maine to dancing lyrebirds in Australia’s Blue Mountains. When she’s not researching great places to experience Bay Area nature, you can find her birding or reading a book at home with her husband and their two indoor cats (Max and Penelope).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: