Redback salamander, Happy Valley Forest, Ontario (Photo by NCC)
Salamanders and newts belong in the order Amphibia, along with frogs, toads and caecilians — a legless, salamander-like animal. Salamanders and newts can be found in the Americas as well as the temperate regions of Europe, Asia and Northern Africa.
Salamanders and newts are not lizards (who belong in the order Reptilia), although they are often mistaken for them because of their similar appearance. What separates salamanders and newts from lizards is their life history and some less noticeable physical characteristics. Salamanders have soft, moist skin without scales and lack claws and external ear openings.
Salamanders and newts may live a totally aquatic, semi-aquatic or terrestrial life. Semi-aquatic species spend most of their life on land, but have one or more aquatic phases. The red-spotted newt, an inhabitant of Ontario forests including the Happy Valley Forest, lives its juvenile phase as a terrestrial eft as seen in the video below, but lives its adult phase as a semi-aquatic animal usually wintering on land.
Salamanders and newts have tadpole-like larvae with external gills, which can feed immediately after hatching from frog-like eggs. Both larvae and adults are carnivorous and eat insects and small invertebrates. Larger adults are able to eat fish, frogs and other salamanders. Salamanders and newts are generally nocturnal and spend their days hidden underneath leaf litter or rotting logs.
In Ontario, there are 14 species of salamanders and newts, as well as two Jeffersonian/blue-spotted hybrids.
Salamanders of Ontario:
Ambystoma laterale - blue-spotted salamander
Ambystoma jeffersonianum - Jefferson salamander
Ambystoma jeffersonianum-laterale "complex" - Jefferson/blue-spotted salamander complex
Ambystoma jeffersonianum-laterale polyploids - Jefferson /blue-spotted salamander polyploids
Ambystoma maculatum - spotted salamander
Ambystoma texanum - smallmouth salamander
Ambystoma tigrinum - eastern tiger salamander
Desmognathus fuscus - northern dusky salamander
Eurycea bislineata - northern two-lined salamander
Gyrinophilus porphyriticus porphyriticus - four-toed salamander
Necturus maculosus - common mudpuppy
Notophthalmus viridescens louisianensis - central newt
Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens - red-spotted newt
Plethodon cinereus - northern redback salamander
Pseudotriton ruber ruber - northern red salamander
For more information on salamanders and newts in Ontario visit these sites: