- Federal Status: Not Listed
- FL Status: State-designated Threatened
- FNAI Ranks: G2G3/S2 (imperiled/rare)
- IUCN Status: NT (near threatened)
Striped newts have a complex life history and may be present on the landscape in several life stages. In most life stages, striped newts can be identified by the reddish-to-orange stripe on their bodies. Larvae are tan-to-greenish brown in color and have a dark line that extends from the snout, through the eye, to the bushy gills. At six months old and roughly one inch in length, a larva will either change into an eft or they will remain in the pond another six months and change into a paedomorph (the newt’s life stage between larvae and terrestrial adult). Paedomorph is a term used for adults that keep the physical appearance of the larval stage and have the ability to reproduce. Paedomorphs have similar coloration to terrestrial adults but will often lack the red stripes. Efts are the juvenile land-dwelling stage and have a dull orange coloration with two red stripes on their backs. Their skin is rough compared to adults and their tails are more rounded when compared to other life stages. Terrestrial adult coloration is olive green to dark brown with two red stripes on their backs that can be outlined in black. Some individuals will have red spots along the stripes. Their bellies are yellow with black spots. Adults can vary in size from about 2-4.1 inches long.
Courtship, breeding, and egg laying occurs in the water when terrestrial adults migrate to breeding ponds, usually during rain events in the fall and winter with some even migrating in the spring or summer. Females can take several months to deposit all their eggs. The eggs are attached singularly to aquatic vegetation and other objects in the pond. Efts migrate into upland habitat where they may remain in that life stage for several years before transforming into terrestrial adults and migrating back to breeding ponds. Paedomorphs may transform into a terrestrial adult after breeding or as ponds dry and will then migrate into adjacent upland habitat. Striped newts will reach sexual maturity when they are about one inch long in length. Striped newts have long lifespans and can live 12-15 years in the wild and have been documented to live more than 17 years in captivity.
Little is known about terrestrial adult and eft behavior other than they have occasionally been found under logs within about a half mile of breeding ponds. Likewise, the diets of terrestrial adults and efts are unknown. Aquatic adults (terrestrial adults that return to ponds to breed) will eat frog eggs, spiders, small adult and larval insects and fairy shrimp.
Striped newts are found in southern Georgia and northern Florida with populations occurring in the Panhandle and Peninsula, separated by the Aucilla River lowlands. Terrestrial adults use dry upland habitats, most frequently sandhill but can also inhabit scrub, scrubby flatwoods, and mesic flatwoods that surround breeding ponds during the non-breeding season. The use of prescribed fire is important to manage this habitat because striped newts rarely use unburned habitats that are encroached by hardwoods. They use temporary or semipermanent depression marshes, basin marshes, dome swamps, sinkhole ponds, and borrow pits that have diverse non-woody vegetation for breeding. Their breeding pools lack predatory fish species allowing eggs and larvae to develop into their later life stages.
Striped newts face a variety of threats, including:
- Habitat loss and alteration: Commercial and residential development, silviculture, agriculture and mining have reduced upland habitats. Changes in natural fire regimes degrades sandhill and upland pine forests allowing the invasion of highly flammable non-native vegetation leading to more intense and hotter fires which can harm or kill above ground vegetation and possibly amphibians. Lack of appropriate prescribed fire degrades breeding ponds due to encroaching shrubs and peat buildup.
- Off-road vehicles: The use of off-road vehicles in sensitive wetland habitat can degrade and destroy suitable breeding habitat.
- Land use changes: Land use changes may also impact striped newts and other amphibians. The increasing need for water resources in Florida can stress aquifers, which alter how long surface ponds can hold water. These changes in water retention periods can negatively impact striped newts by altering the time that the pond is suitable for occupation. Climate change can enhance these changes.
- Climate change: Changes to precipitation can lead to long-term droughts that could negatively impact breeding ponds inhibiting larvae and paedomorphs from transforming into terrestrial adults. Heavy downpours and strong storm surges can cause flooding that introduces predatory fish species to their breeding ponds preventing eggs and larvae from surviving to their adult transformation.
- Diseases: Striped newts, like all amphibians, are vulnerable to diseases. The effects of amphibian disease can be amplified by other threats, including habitat degradation and climate change. Amphibian diseases are difficult for biologists to accurately monitor as dead amphibians quickly decompose.
Conservation and Management
The striped newt is protected as a state-Threatened species under Florida’s Endangered and Threatened Species Rule and is included in Florida’s Imperiled Species Management Plan. The species was listed in 2022 after a Biological Review Group determined that the striped newt met two criteria in their Biological Status Review Report. A Species Action Plan was developed that includes 18 actions focused on increasing the conservation standing of the newt within the state. Guidance for avoidance, minimization, and mitigation for habitat modification projects, as well as Scientific Collecting Permit applications, are included in the Species Conservation Measures and Permitting Guidelines.
How you can help
Disease detection is important in identifying threats to population declines. Report sick or dead striped newts or amphibians on the FWC Reporter App, or by contacting your FWC Regional Office. If you suspect that someone is illegally capturing or selling wild striped newts, please contact the FWC Wildlife Alert Hotline: 888-404-3922.