Fitzgerald Hall of Natural Science
Rough-skinned newts look like lizards but are actually amphibians. Their eggs are laid in ponds, and they are born with gills and no legs. Legs and lungs develop after they go through metamorphosis. They grow to be about three-and-a-half to eight inches long and are estimated to live for about twelve years. Cleese, the WonderLab newt, has been at the museum for many years.
Habitat and Range
Rough-skinned newts live at the interface between land and flowing water, in shallow water, and on and under the moist forest floor. This species is commonly found in the Pacific Northwest.
Rough-skinned newts mostly eat small invertebrates, as well as amphibian eggs and larvae. At WonderLab, they are fed thawed bloodworms.
Behavior and Adaptations
These newts produce toxins in their skin secretions that if ingested by a predator, causes muscles (including the heart) to stop working. Newts advertise this toxin with their bright ventral (bottom) side but have a dark dorsal (top) side to blend in with their surroundings. Garter snakes that live in the same areas as these newts have evolved adaptations to the toxin, and are one of the only animals that can eat a newt without dying. Newts can stay underwater because they take in oxygen from the water around them, which can diffuse directly into their skin. In the winter, a rough-skinned newt may go into torpor at the bottom of a deep pond or underground. This means that they are physically and mentally inactive, their body temperature drops, and their physiological functions are reduced. When the weather warms, the newt will gradually come out of torpor and become physically and mentally active again.