The Rough-skinned Newt is a stocky, medium-sized lung salamander found in North America along the Pacific Coast, west of the Coast and Cascade Mountains, from Alaska (Anchorage) south to San Francisco Bay (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012
, Matsuda et al. 2006). Isolated populations and records are reported from Idaho, Montana and eastern Washington (Matsuda et al. 2006). In British Columbia, this species is found on Vancouver Island, the Gulf Islands and along the mainland coast north to the Skeena River (see map).
Adults of this species are primarily found in older mixed forests with abundant litter and woody debris, sometimes in cedar forests (rarely) (Matsuda et al. 2006). Juveniles may be found "deeply embedded material in moist situations. However, juveniles are active on the ground surface during wet periods, based on observations that juveniles and adults were captured in terrestrial traps in roughly equal numbers" (AmphibiaWeb 2012).
Reproduction in this species is aquatic (AmphibiaWeb 2012). Breeding occurs in ponds, bogs, swamps and slow-moving streams, mainly in the spring (sometimes in the fall in neotenic adults), and eggs hatch in 20-26 days (Matsuda et al. 2006).
Matsuda et al. (2006) describe this species as follows: "This is a long-legged, solid brown, black or dark-olive salamander with slightly flat fingers and toes. The entire body surface is rough with small tubercles....The small eyes have yellow irises....The jaws just out at the back of the head making the head look square...The belly is orange and unmarked....The tail is compressed laterally towards the tip.". The dry, granular skin is distinctive (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012). Larva are brown with a row of light spots on the sides of the body (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012). They are regarded as 'pond-type' larvae, with bushy gills and a large tail fin (AmphibiaWeb 2012). Adults may be neotenic: "Adults in some populations retain gills or gill vestiges and remain in permanent bodies of water year-round" AmphibiaWeb 2012).
Two subspecies of the Rough-skinned Newt are recognized. Our subspecies is Taricha granulosa granulosa (Matsuda et al. 2006).
This species is toxic--the orange belly coloration may serve as a warning to predators. "Poisonous skin secretions containing tetrodotoxin [a potent neurotoxin] repel most predators" (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012). Animal and human deaths have been reported (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012, Matsuda et al. 2006). Although many species of newts produce toxins for defence, toxins in this genus and species are more potent if ingested and can produce skin irritation if handled (Matsuda et al. 2006, Wikipedia 2012). The toxin can be absorbed through a cut in the skin, so this species should be handled with care (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012). The Common Garter Snake (Thamnophis sirtalis) is usually resistant to the toxins of the Rough-skinned Newt and is the only major predator of the species. Interestingly, the neurotoxin has not been found in populations of the Rough-skinned Newt on Vancouver Island (Matsuda et al. 2006).
When threatened, the Rough-skinned Newt curls upwards, exposing its bright orange belly as a warning to predators (CaliforniaHerps.com 2012).