Newts are among the most fascinating amphibians, due to their ability to regrow body parts, produce powerful toxins, breathe through their skin, and live on both land and water.
These creatures also have eye-catching appearances, with colorations ranging from green, brown, and black, to red, yellow, and orange. Plus, newts have countless variations of spots, stripes, lines, and specks all over their damp and sensitive skin.
Another exciting characteristic of newts is the unique size of their lizard-shaped bodies. Some newt species can be as small as your index finger, while others are too big to even fit in the palm of your hand.
If you’re curious to know how brightly colored and big newts can get, then this guide is for you! Keep reading to learn about the size, appearance, and life cycles of newts, including some interesting traits from each species.
On average, fully grown newts can reach 3–5 inches in head-to-tail length and typically weigh 5–11 grams. Their average size can vary per species, with some species having larger females, as in the case of female great crested newts that grow up to 7 inches.
Adult newts have lizard-shaped bodies covered in moist, smooth, and scaleless skin. They have rounded snouts, long tails, and four legs, with four toes on each front foot and five toes on the rear feet.
Compared to salamanders’ well-developed toes, newts’ feet are webbed and accompanied by paddle-like tails fit for an aquatic lifestyle. Newts have the amazing ability to repeatedly regenerate lost limbs and completely repair damage to their eye lenses and heart muscles.
Newts possess large heads, blunt noses, and wide mouths with vomerine teeth arranged in a V-shaped position. These amphibians have black eyes, with some species having yellow irises and eyelids in varying colors.
After hatching from eggs, newts begin their life cycle as aquatic larvae, measuring ¼–1 inch in length. They emerge with external gills and fishlike tails that enable them to breathe underwater for a few months, depending on their species.
Several newt species, including paddle-tail newts, are fully aquatic, but other species lose their gills and soon evolve into terrestrial juveniles, or “efts.” These land-bound juveniles measure around 1.5–3.5 inches and possess sac-like lungs that allow them to breathe air.
Brightly colored efts can spend years in terrestrial environments, but they still require moist and shady conditions as amphibians. They feed on mites, worms, spiders, tiny mollusks, and other insects.
Eventually, efts enter the last stage of their life cycle by returning to the water as adult newts, ready to reproduce. Newts can live for 12–15 years, with some species being able to survive for up to 25 years.
Let’s take a look at the sizes and appearance of some of the most common newt species:
Eastern newts are widespread throughout the United States and can be found in some Canadian provinces as well. These newts typically measure 2.5–5.5 inches in length.
The eastern newt has four subspecies:
- Peninsula Newts: Appear in black, brown, or green colorations with spotted undersides
- Central Newts: Body colors range from yellow to brown, usually without spots or stripes
- Red-spotted Newts: Covered in 2–7 orange or red spots with black borders
- Broken-striped Newts: Possess distinct red stripes with black margins from head to legs
True to its name, the California newt lives on the coastal range of California, from Humbolt County to the Mexican border. At 4.9–7.8 inches, this species is one of the largest that inhibit the Santa Monica Mountains.
California newts have large and protruding eyes, rough and grainy skin, and a reddish-brown to dark-brown coloration.
This newt species from Western Europe is one of the smallest in the world, with adult males only measuring 2–3 inches and adult females reaching 3.7 inches. They look highly similar to smooth newts, except for the absence of spots on their yellow or pink throats.
Palmate newts can be brown or olive green in color, with pale-colored underbellies that may or may not have dark specks. During the mating season, male palmate newts grow black webbing on their rear feet and slender filaments at the tip of their tails.
You’ll find red-bellied newts occupying the redwood and coastal forests of Northern California. They have chocolate brown backs, tomato red underbellies, and bodies measuring 5.5–7.5 inches in total length.
Unlike other newt species with golden eyes, red-bellied newts have black eyes with no yellow patches. Males are easily distinguishable from females due to the dark and wide coloring present across their vents.
This newt species occupies the Pacific Northwest, with populations extending south to California and north to the state of Alaska. As the name implies, rough-skinned newts are famous for their dry and granular skin that’s usually tan or dark brown.
These newts have bright orange underbellies, small eyes, yellow irises, and dark eyelids. When it comes to size, rough-skinned newts are stocky and large, measuring 4.33–7 inches in length.
Smooth newts or “common newts” live in Asia, Australia, and the United Kingdom, and can grow up to 4 inches long. Their upper bodies come in cream, orange, brown, or pale green colors, with some newts having visible black spots.
Male smooth newts are slightly larger than females, with bigger belly spots and more brightly colored orange bellies. Additionally, males develop wavy crests from head to tail during their breeding season.
As for Alpine newts, they’re characterized by marbled skin, dark gray flanks, and bright orange bellies that are free of spots. Male alpine newts can differ in appearance, with blue sides, black spots, and a white band running across their bodies.
During mating season, males develop short crests with black and yellow stripes. At 4.7 inches, alpine newts are larger than smooth newts and palmate newts, but they’re smaller than great crested newts.
Great crested newts get their name from the large and jagged crests that form on males’ backs, which are especially noticeable during breeding seasons. These magnificent amphibians can reach 7 inches long, and are the largest newts in the European continent!
This newt species is also known as the “warty newt” due to the small bumps that cover its dark-colored skin. It has white-speckled sides, an orange or yellowish underbelly with black spots, and a distinct white streak on its flattened tail.
With an average length of 3–5 inches and skin secretions that are strong enough to kill most predators, newts can be described as “small but powerful” creatures. As they go through each stage of their complex life cycles, these amphibians’ versatile abilities continuously evolve.
You’re now familiar with how attractive, impressive, colorful, and big newts can get! If you’re lucky enough to come across one along your path, remember to stop and appreciate the magnificent creature in front of you.
I have a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When I’m not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, I’m at home with my wife, two daughters and a dog. Outside of family, I love grilling and barbequing on my Big Green Egg and working on projects around the house. Growing up, I had pet dogs, cats, deer, sugar gliders, chinchillas, a bird, chickens, fish, and a goat.