Central Newt

Photo of a central newt adult on a plastic aquarium plant.
Scientific Name
Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis
Salamandridae (newts) in the order Caudata (salamanders)

The adult central newt is a small aquatic salamander without gills or costal grooves (vertical grooves along the sides). The back is olive brown and the belly bright orange yellow. Some very small red spots ringed with black may be along the back on both sides of the spine. Numerous small black spots usually cover the body. A dark line runs from the nostril through the eye to the forelimbs.

For a couple of years in the middle (“eft”) stage of their life cycle, central newts live on land. Efts are dull brown to reddish brown, with a rounded tail and rough, almost bumpy skin. The youngest, larval individuals are aquatic and have gills. Upon hatching, they are about ¼ inch long.

Adult length: 2½–4 inches; efts 1¼–3¼ inches.
Where To Find
Central Newt Distribution Map
Throughout most of the state. Mainly found in forested regions, especially the Ozarks; absent from the northwestern corner.
Adults live in woodland ponds, swamps, and occasionally water-filled ditches. They are seldom numerous in ponds that harbor fish or that lack aquatic plants. The efts take shelter under logs, rocks, or piles of dead leaves in wooded areas and may travel far from the ponds they hatched in. Newts are active throughout the year and have been seen swimming under ice. The central newt is the only member of its family in Missouri.
Adult newts eat small aquatic invertebrates such as worms, small mollusks, insects, crayfish, salamander larvae, and small tadpoles. The terrestrial efts eat small insects and tiny snails they find under logs and rocks. The aquatic larvae eat smaller aquatic invertebrates.
Life Cycle
Central newts have a complex life cycle. Breeding occurs in late March through early May. Fertilization is internal. Over a period of weeks in May and June, a female can lay 200–375 eggs, singly, on aquatic plants. These hatch after 3–5 weeks. The larvae live in water until late July or early August, then transform into land-dwelling efts. After living 2–3 years on land, they return to a pond or swamp, change into adults, and spend the rest of their lives mostly in water.
Humans can play a role in protecting our newt populations. If you own land, provide or protect fishless woodland ponds, swamps, and small sloughs, downed logs, brush piles, and other forest-floor debris.

ewts have few predators because they produce toxic skin secretions that make them taste bad. Interestingly, one study showed the skin of efts to be up to 10 times more toxic than that of the aquatic adults.

Scientists have suggested several explanations for the unusual life cycle of newts. The terrestrial eft stage is apparently an adaptive boon when natal ponds are small, likely to dry up, crowded with newt larvae or other animals competing for food, and/or likely to hold predators, and when nearby terrestrial habitats offer plenty of food compared to the natal pond. Also, moving onto land encourages dispersal of individuals, which then can discover new ponds and unrelated newts to mate with.

Media Gallery
Similar Species

Where to See Species

Lamine River Conservation Area is in Cooper and Morgan counties, east of Otterville and easily accessed by Highway 50 and Route A, which bisect the area.
About Reptiles and Amphibians in Missouri
Missouri’s herptiles comprise 43 amphibians and 75 reptiles. Amphibians, including salamanders, toads, and frogs, are vertebrate animals that spend at least part of their life cycle in water. They usually have moist skin, lack scales or claws, and are ectothermal (cold-blooded), so they do not produce their own body heat the way birds and mammals do. Reptiles, including turtles, lizards, and snakes, are also vertebrates, and most are ectothermal, but unlike amphibians, reptiles have dry skin with scales, the ones with legs have claws, and they do not have to live part of their lives in water.