Both salamanders and newts have similar characteristics as well as subtle differences. This begs the question of what newts are and how they are related to salamanders.
Newts are salamanders belonging to the salamandridae family. All newts are salamanders, but all salamanders are not newts. Newts are a subclass of salamanders.
Though newts are a part of the salamander class, they have distinctive features that make them unique. If you want to know the differences and similarities better, I would urge you to read the whole article.
Why Newts Are Called Salamanders?
Newts belong to the salamandridae family for many obvious reasons. Here are the most important ones.
- Shape of the body: Newts have the same shape as lizards and other salamanders. They have four legs and a tail. Their legs are pretty small. So small, in fact, that their bellies rub on the floor when they move around. Their skin is mostly rough, but there are types of newts with smooth skin as well.
- Size of the body: Newts come in a variety of sizes due to the large number of species. According to the Encyclopedia Britannica, they are usually smaller than 8 inches. For example, a wart-shaped nuke can be up to 7 inches (18 cm) tall and weigh 0.22-0.37 ounces (6.3-10.6 grams).
- Environment of habitat: Newts live in damp places such as swamps, ponds, rivers, or lakes. The basic needs for their natural habitats are the same as for salamanders. They are highly dependent on the water and moisture of their living environment, just like salamanders. Some also live in grasslands, crop fields and marshes.
- Consumption of food : Newts and other salamanders are carnivores, which means they depend on other smaller animals for food. They eat slugs, insects, worms, tadpoles, snails, shrimp, and other smaller creatures.
- Reproduction: Newts reproduce in the same way as other salamanders, which is by laying eggs. These eggs then hatch and go from the larvae to the juvenile to the adult stage. A newt, like other salamanders, can lay one egg at a time but can lay up to hundreds of eggs. Salamanders and newts mostly depend on pheromones during the breeding season rather than vocal signals like other amphibians.
- Regeneration: Newts follow through with the ability to regenerate like other salamanders. They can reproduce fully functional limbs. This ability is common in salamanders.
- Life expectancy: With the exception of a few species, most salamanders and newts have a life expectancy ranging from 5 to 25 years.
- Defense Mechanism: While salamanders and newts are not venomous, their skin is poisonous, which is used as a protective mechanism against predators. To learn more about the poisonous effects of newts, click here.
Classification Of The Newts
Here is the scientific classification of newts that proves that they are, in fact, salamanders.
- Kingdom : Animalia
- Subkingdom : Bilateria
- Infrakingdom : Deuterostomia
- Phylum : Chordata
- Subphylum : Vertebrata
- Infraphylum : Gnathostomata
- Superclass : Tetrapoda
- Class : Amphibia
- Order : Caudata
- Family : Salamandridae
Differences Between Salamanders And Newts
Before reading the differences, we need to understand that newts and salamanders are not like toads and frogs, whose key characteristics are totally different. Rather, the difference between salamanders and newts is much more subtle.
|Newts||Salamanders (which are not newts)|
|Newts live a semiaquatic or aquatic life as adults.||Salamanders live a terrestrial life for most of the time.|
|They have webbed feet and comparably flat tails that help them swim in water.||They have well-developed legs and pointed toes that help them dig the soil. Their tails are more rounded.|
|Most newts have dry and warty skin.||Salamanders mostly have smooth and slick skin.|
|There are approximately 60 different types of newts.||There are approximately 500 types of salamanders that have been discovered up till now.|
|The word newt comes from old English, meaning ‘small lizard’||Salamander is a Greek word meaning ‘fire lizard’.|
|The distinctive differences between the sexes are clearer in newts.||It is harder to comparably distinguish the sexes in other salamanders|
|Newts mostly live up to 25 years.||Certain species of salamanders can live up to 75-100 years.|
Newts Are Not Always Bound To Aquatic Life
There are some species like the eastern newt which go through multiple shifts of habitat environment in their life cycle.
Eastern newts have an aquatic larval stage like all others, but then they shift to the land for their juvenile terrestrial age. At this stage, they spend almost all their time on land.
But it is not permanent, as they come back to the aquatic way of life as soon as they grow up as adults.
Not All Salamanders Are Bound To Land Either
Just like newts, there are also exceptions among the species of salamanders. The Eastern hellbender is a species of salamander that spends its whole life in water.
One unique species of salamander is the mudpuppy, which goes through a fully aquatic life and doesn’t even go through metamorphosis. That is, they do not go through the same physical stages as other salamanders or newts.
The Exceptional Newt
There is a certain type of newt which defies the laws of salamanders and newts.
The Emperor newt opposes the typical amphibian habitat. This endangered species, also known as the imperial newt or the Japanese fire-bellied newt, inhabits the Zagros Mountains in western Iran.
It occurs in streams and ponds surrounded by dry shrublands, and water is only available for 3-4 months a year. It’s not the shaded and damp place that newts expect!
When it starts to rain from late March to early April and the streams and ponds are full, the newt seems to eat with all his heart and look for a partner.
After that vigorous activity, summer comes, they go underground, dig into sandy soil, become paralyzed, slow down their heartbeat and breathing, and stop eating.
This lifestyle makes the emperor newt unique among all the newts and salamanders.
Are Newts Lizards?
Newts are not lizards. In fact, they are in totally different classes. Newts belong to the class of salamanders that includes Amphibia.
Lizards, on the other hand, belong to the class reptilia.
Newts and salamanders have many distinct physical, environmental, and behavioral features that make them totally different from lizards.