A Rough-skinned newt.
Photo by Thomas Orr,
(c) California Academy of Sciences.

WILD LIVES: March of the Newts

During the winter rains, newts (genus Taricha) crawl out from their underground burrows
and migrate by the thousands to the waters they left as juveniles to mate.

The males arrive at ponds and streams first and wait for the females. Before diving into fatherhood each year, the males become better suited to spending time in water: their skins become smooth, and their tails grow rudder-like. Females entering the water are immediately courted by males.

It's a perilous journey. The migration increases their visibility to a few natural predators such as raccoons and garter snakes, but the real danger are cars along roads that lie between the newts' summer and breeding grounds. In the Bay Area, South Park Drive in the Berkeley Hills is closed each October through April for their protection.

Once fertilized, females deposit eggs on submerged vegetation or rocks. Larvae hatch in winter; by mid summer they have

Distribution map of the Newts found in California.

metamorphosed into juveniles, and they leave their watery worlds for woodlands and grasslands. After about four years, young adults return to ponds and streams annually to mate.

California has three species of newts: rough-skinned (in tank), California, and red-bellied.