Wednesday, July 27, 2011

CA newt ~ 07/27/11 ~ Butano

I knew Butano State Park was known for their newts based on our brief visit in the rain on October 24, 2010. According to the brochure, February is a good month to spot newts. I didn't expect to find any in the middle of summer. We actually saw a few, both on land well away from any water and in Little Butano Creek. Andy pointed them out to me. I'm discovering he has quite the eye for finding newts/salamanders.

Butano has two similar looking species of newts, the CA newt and the rough-skinned newt (Taricha granulosa). Based on the bumpy skin of the individual I photographed above, I figured I had a rough-skinned newt. Nope. Thankfully, has this handy-dandy Taricha ID guide. Both transform to a smoother skin during their aquatic reproductive phase - never heard of this before researching for this blog post. Plus, both have yellow patches in the eyes. What sold me on the T. torosa ID was the light-colored lower eyelid.

I'll admit to picking up this fellow to keep him from sashaying into the water before I could get a couple of pictures. We later read that it has poisonous skin secretions. I need to learn to not pick up wild, unknown things, even if they're irresistibly cute. The toes totally get me laughing. Four in front and five in back. As a side note, it looks like this one still has its nuptial pads. Shoot, forget caterpillars and tadpoles, I think I may want to raise a few newts, ones without poisonous secretions.

ps 02/17/14 - Given my outing with fellow bloggers on February 10, 2014, I'm now wondering if this might be a rough-skinned newt intergrade.  Erg.


Sinbad and I on the Loose said...

I see newts in my Annadel Park in February or so as you mentioned. Rough-skinned type I think. Odd to see that fellow this time of the year. I never pick them up. I am more concerned about tranferring some bacteria from my hands to them. Did not know about some having poisonous skin secretions.

Neil said...

Most (if not all?) newts secrete toxins, which is why most are brightly colored - but most aren't so potent as Taricha. I have handled these guys many, many times without ill effect (to me at least), not that I am recommending it. In my many attempts to keep newts as a kid always found them to be finicky eaters, and always released them after a few days. Raising some up from tadpoles would be really interesting though.

Katie (Nature ID) said...

JL, I'll look up that bacteria transfer, never heard of it.

Neil, hey you know lots, could you tell me the difference between newts and salamanders?

randomtruth said...

I'd say your ID is correct, although you did find one that's not obvious. Washing your hands before and after you touch any phibs is always a good idea. Leslie Anthony, author of Snakebit, tells a great story of being blind in one eye for 3 hours after handling a Taricha and then rubbing his eye w/o washing. Could make for a tough drive home. :)

Neil said...

Similar to the "frog/toad" distinction in that it is really all about appearances, but maps somewhat onto real taxonomic groups.

Generally, all caudates (including newts) are considered "salamanders" in the broadest sense. Most "newts" go through a rough-skinned terrestrial phase (the eft), and a smooth-skinned aquatic or semi-aquatic breeding phase, as you mentioned in your post. This habit is found in several genera that are probably close relatives but it's not clear that "newts" are a monophyletic unit exclusive of other salamanders.

So "newts" are salamanders, but not all salamanders are "newts."

And I second randomtruth's advice on washing hands before and after handling herps!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Thanks, randomtruth and Neil. Good information to have.