Newt news

Meet our salamanders

When project manager Jasmine Westbrook posted this California newt on Facebook, it got a whole bunch of likes. Who wouldn't be won over by this newt's wide-set yellow eyes, moist body, and four toes!

Solano Land Trust has several types of salamanders, including newts, on our properties. Because of your support through donations, newts and salamanders are protected at Jepson Prairie Preserve, the King-Swett Ranches, Lynch Canyon, and Rockville Trails Preserve.

Read on to learn about these amphibians that live on the land that you help to protect.

California newt

Stewardship coordinator Ryan Lewis says that newts develop a paddle-like tail during the winter breeding season to help them move through water. With the onset of winter rains, they breed and lay eggs in ponds and slow-moving streams. Eggs hatch into larvae with gills. The larvae, which look nothing like adult newts, grow in the pools until the water evaporates in the summer. Then the larvae lose their gills, develop lungs, and move onto land with rough skin and rounded tails that help them conserve water in summer.

“My sister and I had newt races when we were kids,” says Jasmine. “With hands covered in mud, I found my best newt (the slim zippy ones) and raced it against my sister’s best newt.”

California slender salamander

California tiger salamander

Breathing skin

We also have California slender salamanders, which Jasmine says are so slim you might mistake them for worms. Unlike the California newt, the tiny California slender salamander spends its whole life away from water; although it still requires the dark moisture of rotting logs and leaf litter. This is because slender salamanders lack lungs, and get oxygen directly from the air through their skin. The slender salamander mates and lays eggs where it lives. The salamanders that hatch from the eggs look like tiny versions of adults and are immediately able to walk on land and “breathe” air through their skin.

The California tiger salamander at Jepson Prairie is perhaps our most celebrated amphibian. The elegantly polka-dotted tiger salamander is endangered, and protected by state and federal laws. These secretive creatures live in underground burrows made by ground squirrels and gophers and only emerge at night in the rain to migrate to breeding pools, where they lay eggs in water like newts.

It is unlawful to handle these endangered salamanders. Their skin is made of a delicate mucous membrane that is sensitive to sunscreen and other things that we put on our skin.

Newts are also in danger on our roads. “After a good rain, California newts head to the water to feed and breed. They move slowly, and can resemble autumn leaves, leading to hundreds of them being crushed by cars every year in Solano County. Please slow for salamanders and newts!” says Jasmine.

Newts need water to reproduce and cool places to hide during dry, summer months. If you live on property that may have suitable habitat for newts, Jasmine suggests that you leave a fallen log or allow ground squirrels to make a few burrows to provide the newts with a summer home.

These amazing creatures are able to live here in Solano County because you care about protecting the land. Thank you.

Photos courtesy of Connor Long, Ryan Lewis, and Doug Wirtz.

Fun facts about California newts:

• They can live over 20 years in the wild.
• They eat mosquito larvae, worms, and other small invertebrates.
• They try to scare away predators by showing their bright orange undersides.
• They are toxic if eaten, but otherwise harmless.