Taricha torosa - (Rathke, 1833)
Coast Range Newt
Synonym(s): Taricha torosa torosa (Rathke, 1833)
Taxonomic Status: Accepted
Related ITIS Name(s): Taricha torosa (Rathke, 1833) (TSN 173622)
Unique Identifier: ELEMENT_GLOBAL.2.105555
Element Code: AAAAF02032
Informal Taxonomy: Animals, Vertebrates - Amphibians - Salamanders
Kingdom Phylum Class Order Family Genus
Animalia Craniata Amphibia Caudata Salamandridae Taricha
Genus Size: B - Very small genus (2-5 species)
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Concept Reference
Concept Reference: Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.
Concept Reference Code: B85FRO01HQUS
Name Used in Concept Reference: Taricha torosa torosa
Taxonomic Comments: Taricha sierrae formerly was recognized as a subspecies of Taricha torosa.

Phylogenetic analysis of mtDNA data (Tan and Wake 1995) revealed the following clusters in T. torosa: (1) northern Sierra Nevada (Shasta to Nevada counties); (2) central Sierra Nevada (El Dorado to Fresno counties); (3) southern Sierra Nevada (Tulare to Kern counties) (independently derived relative to 1 and 2, above); (4) southern coastal California (San Diego and Orange counties); (5) central coastal California (Los Angeles to central and northern California). This study and additional allozyme data (Kuchta and Tan 2006) provided the basis for a phylogeographical history of T. torosa. Among other things, the data are consistent in indicating that populations in the southern Sierra Nevada are more closely related to T. torosa torosa than to T. t. sierrae.

In the interests of taxonomic stability, Kuchta and Tan (2006) refrained from advocating changes in the taxonomic status of Taricha torosa torosa and Taricha torosa sierrae, pending completion and publication of ongoing studies.

Kuchta (2007) examined genetic and morphological variation in Taricha torosa and concluded that T. torosa and T. sierrae are distinct evolutionary lineages that should be recognized as distinct species.
Conservation Status

NatureServe Status

Global Status: G4
Global Status Last Reviewed: 29May2008
Global Status Last Changed: 07Oct2005
Rounded Global Status: G4 - Apparently Secure
Nation: United States
National Status: N4 (27May2008)

U.S. & Canada State/Province Status
United States California (S4)

Other Statuses

IUCN Red List Category: LC - Least concern

NatureServe Global Conservation Status Factors

Range Extent: 20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)
Range Extent Comments: Range includes the coast ranges of California, from Mendocino County southward to Los Angeles County and disjunctly south to the Cayumaca Mountains in San Diego County; also the southern Sierra Nevada from Tulare County to Kern County (Kuchta and Tan 2006). Taricha sierrae hybridizes with T. torosa in the southern Sierra Nevada (Kaweah River area) (Kuchta 2007).

Number of Occurrences: 81 - 300
Number of Occurrences Comments: This species is represented by many and/or large occurrences throughout most of the range.

Population Size: 100,000 - 1,000,000 individuals
Population Size Comments: Total adult population size is unknown but surely exceeds 100,000. This species is common in many parts of its range.

Overall Threat Impact: Medium
Overall Threat Impact Comments: Under natural conditions, solar UV-B radiation reduces embryo survival; effects at the population level remain to be determined (Anzalone et al. 1998).

Introduced crayfish and mosquitofish (Gambusia) prey on eggs and larvae and have caused local population declines in southern California (Gamradt and Kats 1996). Introduced fishes likely have a negative impact in some bodies of water.

Locally, population have been reduced or eliminated as a result of habitat degradation or loss caused by conversion of habitat to human uses and to a much lesser degree by large-scale commercial exploitation (Jennings and Hayes 1994). Increased stream sedimentation resulting from erosion caused by human activities and wildlfires (Gamradt and Kats 1997, Kerby and Kats 1998) has degraded breeding habitat in some areas (Jennings and Hayes 1994).

Many are killed on roads as they move between uplands and aquatic breeding sites.

Short-term Trend: Decline of <30% to relatively stable
Short-term Trend Comments: Currently relatively stable in extent of occurrence; probably relatively stable to slowly declining in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences.

Long-term Trend: Decline of <30% to increase of 25%
Long-term Trend Comments: Over the long term, likely relatively stable in extent of occurrence, probably less than 25% decline in population size, area of occurrence, and number/condition of occurrences. Many historical occurrences in San Diego County appear to be extirpated.

Other NatureServe Conservation Status Information

Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) Range includes the coast ranges of California, from Mendocino County southward to Los Angeles County and disjunctly south to the Cayumaca Mountains in San Diego County; also the southern Sierra Nevada from Tulare County to Kern County (Kuchta and Tan 2006). Taricha sierrae hybridizes with T. torosa in the southern Sierra Nevada (Kaweah River area) (Kuchta 2007).

U.S. States and Canadian Provinces
Color legend for Distribution Map
Endemism: endemic to a single state or province

U.S. & Canada State/Province Distribution
United States CA

Range Map
No map available.

U.S. Distribution by County Help
State County Name (FIPS Code)
CA Los Angeles (06037), Monterey (06053), Orange (06059), Riverside (06065), San Benito (06069), San Diego (06073), San Luis Obispo (06079), Santa Barbara (06083), Ventura (06111)
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
U.S. Distribution by Watershed Help
Watershed Region Help Watershed Name (Watershed Code)
18 Pajaro (18060002)+, Salinas (18060005)+, Central Coastal (18060006)+, Alisal-Elkhorn Sloughs (18060011)+, Carmel (18060012)+, Santa Barbara Coastal (18060013)+, Ventura (18070101)+, Los Angeles (18070105)+, San Gabriel (18070106)+, Santa Ana (18070203)+, Aliso-San Onofre (18070301)+, Santa Margarita (18070302)+, San Diego (18070304)+
+ Natural heritage record(s) exist for this watershed
* Extirpated/possibly extirpated
Ecology & Life History
General Description: The upper side of adults is usually dark brown to tan or yellowish brown. The belly is yellowish to orange. The skin is rough in the land-dwelling stage but becomes smooth in breeding males. The lower eyelids and the area below eyes is pale. The sides of the body lack prominent vertical grooves. When viewed from above, the eyes generally extend to or beyond the outline of the head. The roof of the mouth has a Y-shaped patch of teeth. Maximum size is about 3.5 inches (9 cm) from the tip of the snout to the rear end of the vent. Breeding males have smooth skin, a flattened tail, and a swollen vent, and the undersides of the feet have rough dark skin. Larvae have large gills and a dark stripe on each side of the back. Egg masses are rounded, have firm jelly, contain usually about 1-3 dozen egg, sand are up to about one inch (2.5 cm) in diameter.
Reproduction Comments: Coast range newts migrate seasonally between upland habitats and aquatic breeding sites. Generally they begin moving to water with the first fall rains. Breeding occurs from December to May (peak February-April). Individual females lay 1 or 2 dozen eggs in spherical masses. Larvae hatch in about 4-8 weeks. Larvae transform in late summer or early fall or when the water dries up. Metamorphosed juveniles live several years on land before maturing and returning to water to breed.
Non-Migrant: N
Locally Migrant: Y
Long Distance Migrant: N
Mobility and Migration Comments: Coast range newts sometimes migrate long distances (up to around two miles) between nonbreeding uplands habitats and distant aquatic breeding sites, though movements may be much shorter when conditions near breeding sites are favorable. Unfortunately, many are killed on roads as they make their migrations.
Riverine Habitat(s): CREEK, High gradient, MEDIUM RIVER, Moderate gradient, Pool, Riffle
Palustrine Habitat(s): Riparian, TEMPORARY POOL
Terrestrial Habitat(s): Forest - Hardwood, Forest - Mixed, Forest/Woodland, Grassland/herbaceous, Savanna, Shrubland/chaparral, Woodland - Hardwood, Woodland - Mixed
Special Habitat Factors: Benthic, Burrowing in or using soil, Fallen log/debris
Habitat Comments: When not breeding, coast range newts occupy various upland habitats such as grassland, woodland, and forest(Storer 1925, Petranka 1998, Stebbins 2003, Kuchta 2005).. Breeding occurs in ponds, reservoirs, and streams. Eggs are attached to sticks, stones, or vegetation in flowing or nonflowing water; fast-moving streams and rivers are used more often in southern California mountains than elsewhere in the range.
Adult Food Habits: Invertivore
Immature Food Habits: Invertivore
Food Comments: Metamorphosed individuals eat earthworms, snails, slugs, sowbugs, and various insects; adults, especially females, may eat conspecific eggs. Larvae eat small aquatic organisms and decomposing organic material (Stebbins 1951).
Adult Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Immature Phenology: Circadian, Hibernates/aestivates
Phenology Comments: Coast range newts are inactive in cold temperatures or hot, dry weather. They often are active in daylight during the rainy season.
Colonial Breeder: Y
Economic Attributes Not yet assessed
Management Summary Not yet assessed
Population/Occurrence Delineation
Group Name: Salamandrids (Newts)

Use Class: Not applicable
Subtype(s): Breeding Pond
Minimum Criteria for an Occurrence: Occurrences are based on evidence of historical presence, or current and likely recurring presence, at a given location. Such evidence minimally includes collection or reliable observation and documentation of one or more individuals (including larvae or eggs) in or near appropriate habitat where the species is presumed to be established and breeding.
Mapping Guidance: Occurrences should include aquatic/wetland habitat and known occupied upland habitat (if any), but occurrences based on observations/captures of individuals in aquatic/wetland habitat should include only the known distribution of the population and not include large areas of upland habitat (not known to be occupied) that may extend between occupied aquatic/wetland habitat within the appropriate separation distances.
Separation Barriers: Heavily traveled road, especially with high traffic volume at night; urban area dominated by buildings and pavement.
Separation Distance for Unsuitable Habitat: 1 km
Separation Distance for Suitable Habitat: 5 km
Separation Justification: Although newts may cross roads successfully during breeding migrations, though often with high mortality, it is likely that broad, high-speed transportation corridors such as interstate highways normally serve as functional barriers.

Both Ashton (1998) and Johnson (2001) reported that striped newts (N. perstriatus) may cross highly disturbed land, such as the cleared and bedded soils of some silvicultural site preparations, although they did not note that such sites could sustain the species. Similarly, other newt species readily traverse large areas of disturbed upland and wetland habitat.

Although population genetic data are unavailable to document the existence or importance of interdemic migration for N. perstriatus (potentially important to the reestablishment of locally extirpated populations), individuals may move more than 800 meters from breeding ponds to terrestrial home ranges (Dodd 1993, Johnson 1998, Dodd and Cade 1998). Sixteen percent of individuals in a large population studied by Johnson (2001) moved more than 500 meters into uplands. Red-bellied newts may travel a mile (1.6 km) or more between breeding sites and upland habitat (Twitty 1966). Further, there is strong likelihood that newts breeding in a proximate series of ponds function as a metapopulation (principal EO; Johnson 1998, 2001).

Given that newts exhibit good mobility and longevity, it seems unlikely that occupied locations separated by a gap of less than several kilometers of suitable habitat would represent independent occurrences over the long term.

Inferred Minimum Extent of Habitat Use (when actual extent is unknown): .5 km
Date: 21Sep2004
Author: Jackson, D. R., and G. Hammerson. Separation distance by G. Hammerson.
Population/Occurrence Viability
U.S. Invasive Species Impact Rank (I-Rank) Not yet assessed
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Edition Date: 25Jan2010
NatureServe Conservation Status Factors Author: Hammerson, G.
Element Ecology & Life History Edition Date: 25Jan2010
Element Ecology & Life History Author(s): Hammerson, G.

Zoological data developed by NatureServe and its network of natural heritage programs (see Local Programs) and other contributors and cooperators (see Sources).

  • Anzalone, C. R., L. B. Kats, and M. S. Gordon. 1998. Effects of solar UV-B radiation on embryonic development in HYLA CADAVERINA, HYLA REGILLA, and TARICHA TOROSA. Conservation Biology 12:646-653.

  • Crother, B. I. (editor). 2012. Scientific and standard English names of amphibians and reptiles of North America north of Mexico, with comments regarding confidence in our understanding. 7th edition. SSAR Herpetological Circular 39:1-92.

  • Frost, D. R. 1985. Amphibian species of the world. A taxonomic and geographical reference. Allen Press, Inc., and The Association of Systematics Collections, Lawrence, Kansas. v + 732 pp.

  • Gamradt, S. C., and L. B. Kats. 1997. Impact of chaparral wildfire-induced sedimentation on oviposition of stream-breeding California newts (Taricha torosa). Oecologia 110:546-549.

  • Gamradt, S. C., and L. B. Katz. 1996. The effect of introduced crayfish and mosquitofish on California newts (Taricha torosa). Conservation Biology 10:1155-1162.

  • Jennings, M. R., and M. P. Hayes. 1994. Amphibian and reptile species of special concern in California. Final Report submitted to the California Department of Fish and Game, Inland Fisheries Division. Contract No. 8023. 255 pp.

  • Jones, L.L.C., W. P. Leonard, and D. H. Olson, editors. 2005. Amphibians of the Pacific Northwest. Seattle Audubon Society, Seattle, Washington. xii + 227 pp.

  • Kerby, J. L., and L. B. Kats. 1998. Modified interactions between salamander life stages caused by wildfire-induced sedimentation. Ecology 79:740-745.

  • Kuchta, S. R. 2005. Taricha torosa (Rathke, 1833). California newt. Pages 904-908 in M. Lannoo, editor. Amphibian declines: the conservation status of United States species. University of California Press, Berkeley.

  • Kuchta, S. R. 2007. Contact zones and species limits: hybridization between lineages of the California newt, Taricha torosa, in the southern Sierra Nevada. Herpetologica 63::332-350.

  • Kuchta, S. R., and A.-M. Tan. 2006. Lineage diversification on an evolving landscape: phylogeography of the California newt, Taricha torosa (Caudata: Salamandridae). Biological Journal of the Linnean Society 89:213-239.

  • Nussbaum, R.A. and Brodie, E.D. Jr. 1981. Taricha torosa. Catalogue of American Amphibians and Reptiles. 273:1-4.

  • Petranka, J. W. 1998. Salamanders of the United States and Canada. Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, D.C.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 1951. Amphibians of western North America. University of California Press, Berkeley. 539 pp.

  • Stebbins, R. C. 2003. A field guide to western reptiles and amphibians. Third edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, Boston.

  • Storer, T. I. 1925. A synopsis of the Amphibia of California. University of California Publications in Zoology 27:1-342.

  • Tan, A.-M., and D. B. Wake. 1995. MtDNA phylogeography of the California newt, TARICHA TOROSA (Caudata, Salamandridae). Molecular Phylogenetics and Evolution 4:383-394.

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