|Image: Ken-ichi Ueda|
Having just finished reading War with the Newts for the (post-apocalyptic) book club I recently joined, I felt it was about time we took a gander at a newt. Preferably one that probably won't destroy land masses in order to provide more coastlines to support their ever growing population.
To be more specific, this is the stage in the newt lifecycle where it's known as an "eft". Efts are terrestrial, and clamber around in damp leaf litter stopping to feast on slugs and insects as they journey far and wide to ensure the entire population of Eastern Newts isn't trapped in a single pond.
|Image: Dave Huth|
This adventurous spirit has served its purpose admirably, and the Eastern Newt is now common throughout the eastern half of the United States. With such a large range it's no surprise that there are several subspecies, including the Peninsular Newt of Florida which usually skips the orange eft stage altogether. For shame! So much orange could have been yours!
|Image: Michael Righi|
After a few months of ravenously consuming as many aquatic invertebrates as they can, the tadpoles metamorphose into teenagers. Their gills are absorbed and traded in for a set of lungs. Their spindly limbs get thicker and stronger. Their skin becomes much more poisonous, a little dryer and rougher and very, very orange.
And off they go, waddling through the forest with adorably slow, careful steps. They'll spend two or three years on terra firma, growing about 3 to 8 cm (1 to 3 in) long
|Image: Josh More|
If nothing too terrible happens, they can live for another 10 years!
|Image: Todd Pierson|
The male's sexy legs
The male uses these to grab hold of the female behind her neck. He then strokes her with his snout and forelimbs while fluttering his tail to waft exciting pheromones to her nose. They can go on like this for minutes or hours, after which he'll release her. If he was good enough, she'll nudge his tail and the lucky chap will drop a spermatophore for her to pick up. If not, she'll simply wander away.
Females lay only a few eggs per day, scattered among underwater plants. She'll lay a total of 200 to 400 of them over the course of several weeks and then get on with her life, leaving them to hatch after a month or two.
I can't help but think that if you knew your children were going to turn quite so incredibly orange, you would want to sit there and watch it happen. Weird the things you just get used to.