Friday, February 1, 2013

Red Eft

Red Efts (sometimes called Red-spotted Newts) are salamanders that are found across much of eastern North America. This photo is from Pennsylvania, and I have seen them in the Boundary Waters Canoe Area of northeastern Minnesota. This species usually has three life stages—aquatic larvae, terrestrial juveniles (efts), and aquatic adults.  The efts lose their gills and usually remain on land for up to three years. In times of drought, efts can live, although not reproduce, “indefinetly,” while they await the return of rains (herpadventures).

The eft’s color ranges from red, brownish, or, as in this case, bright orange. Bright colors in animals often warn predators that the bright creature is poisonous.  In the case of the Red Eft, the skin secretes toxic substances. The bright spots are even retained by the aquatic adults, which otherwise become yellowish-green. Aquatic newts, therefore, are not consumed by fish and terrestrial efts may be avoided by jays and other birds. I do not believe this venom affects people, although, before rubbing your eyes, it might be a good idea to wash your hands after handing a Red Eft.

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