Salamanders vs Newts Comparison (How do they differ?)

Difference Between a Salamander and a Newt?

Did you ever wonder are newts and salamanders same? What is the difference between Salamanders and newts?

If you have all these questions in your mind, then you have come to the right place!

Recently I was on the lookout for pet salamander and I quickly realized that there was a lot of confusion between salamanders and newts.

I was not able to identify them, so after coming back I started researching about it, and here is my review guide.

We often use the terms newt and salamander interchangeably, But in fact, there are, obvious distinctions among them.

In this article, I will try to show you the basic and quick identifying differences between the two, so, let us quickly dive in!

What’s the Difference Between a Salamander and a Newt?

Again the obvious question Is a salamander a newt? why do some people consider these two distinct amphibians similar?

Newts are a type of salamander, belonging to subfamily Pleurodelinae of the main family Salamandridae.

Essentially, all newts are salamanders, but all salamanders are not newts.

Salamander and Newt are basically, tail bearing amphibians of the common order Urodela (Caudata).

Beyond a name, how do we know if you’re looking at a salamander or newt?

Well, There are only a few subtle differences:

Comparison Table Salamanders vs Newts

BasisSalamandersNewts
SpeciesThere are 655 Recognized salamander speciesThere are 100 Recognized Newts species
SimilarityAll Salamanders are not NewtsAll Newts are Salamanders
HabitatSalamanders live mostly terrestrial life.Newts live a semi-aquatic to aquatic life
Physical TraitsSalamanders have longer and rounded tails with well-developed toesNewts have webbed feet and a paddle-like tail
Family
Subfamily
Salamander includes different species like spring lizard, water dog, mud puppy & NewtsA newt is a salamander in the subfamily Pleurodelinae
Life Cycle
Stages
A Salamander has only 2 life stages
1) Gilled juvenile
2) Adult
A newt has 3 life stages
1) Aquatic juvenile with gills
2) Terrestrial juvenile called eft
3) Adult Newt

Salamanders vs Newts infographic for kids

Salamanders and newts infographic

Fun fact: Newts and Salamanders are called “Hands-Off” Pets

Is a newt a baby salamander?

A newt is a salamander from the subfamily Pleurodelinae. but we cannot consider all aquatic salamanders as newts,

We usually refer to terrestrial juvenile phase as an eft.

Unlike other members of the Salamandridae family, newts are usually semi-aquatic in nature with 3 life stages.

They transit between water (aquatic) and land (terrestrial) habitats depending on their development stage.

Which animal salamanders evolve from?

it is difficult to point out the exact lineage of organism for salamanders evolution.

Even though, The first true tetrapods are referred to as salamanders.

Their direct ancestor is still unknown, but they have some known relatives like lobe-finned fish.

Characteristics like juvenile gills, breathing though lungs , claws on the toes, and air breathing are few factors,

That indicates the evolution of salamanders and other amphibians are from a fish-like organism.

Can newts breed with salamanders?

Newts are salamanders, so every time they mate they are breeding with salamanders! But, that’s not the question, is it?

Newts are a special kind of salamander having 60+ known species and with possibility for them to interbreed.

but it is not suggested at all to force interbreeding amount various species it may cause diseases and life span reduction.

Can you touch a newt?

Newts shouldn’t be handled any more than absolutely necessary, for your own protection and theirs,

mineral oils soap, chemicals on your hands or skin can injure newt’s by absorbing through their skin, and the simple act of handling can infect or even kill them.

Are newts poisonous? Can they kill you?

Newts Toxin is effective only if we ingest them, although some people reports skin irritation after physical contact,

Discomfort zones ares particularly eyes and sensitive body parts because improper washing hands and handling.

Note: This are very few recorded poisoning death cases from touching newts. (In 1979 a person died after ingesting a newt)

Are newts really toxic? Why is the Newt so toxic?

Yes, Some newts are very poisonous, their skin contains a deadly secretion called tetrodotoxin (TTX),

TTX is usually found in snake venom. this exotic pet is capable of producing enough poison to kill a dozen people.

The answer lies in the evolutionary food chain of newts and their predators like (Gartner snakes).

The snakes being higher in the food web usually prey upon newts and many other amphibians.

In a race of survival of the fittest and to protect its own species newt’s developed tetrodotoxin (TTX).

Credits: etsy.com

For Further Reading

I Hope that you enjoyed reading this article, and have enough information for you presentation.

you can download the info-graphics and use them in homes walls or worksheets and even send to you teachers.

here are some more article related to salamanders and newts that may potential be in you interest.

Do you want to know if newt or salamander bites hurts?

here is another Article about if Salamanders are poisonous and dangerous for humans

Do Salamanders Bite? Do salamanders have teeth?

Salamanders are the kind of animal that intrigue me. Not because they are dangerously looking (although some are) but because I find them a bit mystical.

I say this because when I was on holiday last summer, I was given the opportunity to see the movements of a salamander for about half an hour when I was sitting on the balcony of the apartment. 

It looked like such a shy animal and don’t know why, but I wondered about if it would hurt when you got bitten by such a shy animal.

Now that the thought about the summer popped into my head this week, I also thought about the question and found out that I still didn’t know if salamanders bite. So I did some research and this is what I found.

So, do salamanders bite? The short answer is yes. They can bite. Now, this is not to say that salamanders will bite in everything. They are shy animals that almost only bite in their food.

But a salamander may mistake your hand for food when you’re trying to pet it (or when they live in captivity when you try to feed them) and that bite you. However unlikely, I would still recommend that you treat them with caution.

Do you want to know more about the bites of salamanders, if they have teeth and if the bite can be poisonous to you?

Then read on because all your questions are going to be answered!

Do salamanders bite and do they have teeth?

Salamanders, the majority of the many wonderful and fascinating species, have teeth but are not prone to biting. The other types or species of this amphibian creature do not even have teeth.

In general, they are shy creature, quite docile and like to stay away from anything that isn’t their primary food source. 

The food that they do eat wary greatly dependent on the species themselves.

The smaller species such as the dusky salamander they primarily feast on all kinds of insects, from worms to moths, spiders, beetles, and all kinds of larvae.

They use their teeth to help them steady and as precise as possible swallow their prey. 

They have a very slow metabolism. It can take weeks for them to digest everything that they have swallowed.

The larger species of this animal, such as the Japanese giant salamander eats a wide variety of sea creatures such as fish, crabs, other types of amphibians.

In some cases, when the food source that they crave is unavailable, the larger salamanders might resort to cannibalism.

In general, their teeth are placed on both the bottom and the upper jaw. They are quite small, proportional to the rest of their body.

Does it hurt when they bite?

It is highly unlikely. The species that do have teeth are quite small. Their teeth are tiny. It might feel like you are being pricked by a dozen or so tiny needles. Their jaws are not as powerful as one might imagine. 

The average salamander one might get as a pet isn’t an aggressive animal. If you by some chance scare him or her, and he poor little creature bites you do not feel surprised. But the pain itself should not be some terrible and hard ordeal to suffer thought.

Can a salamander bite be poisonous?

The majority of poisonous salamanders have gland around their body where the poison is formed and, later down the road, when the salamander is in danger, or when they are ready to go hunting for prey, the poison will be secreted.

In most cases, the poison is more around the skin, far from the mouth of the creature. 

The only dangerous exception to this rule is the fire salamander. This small creature with skin as black as the night and bright yellow dot on top of the black has poison glands that are closed to its mouth. 

This means that even if the bite itself isn’t poisonous if you get bitten and the bites penetrate your skin you might rub that bitten area around the head of the fire salamander that has indeed been covered with poison. 

The poison that this species of salamander produces can be very strong and cause strong muscle convulsions in vertebrates.

Is a bite from a salamander dangerous for people?

When one considers the bite of a salamander in all its potentiality and actuality, it is not dangerous for people. In the first case, the chances that a salamander will bite you are very very slim.

They are quite the docile creature, tame and like to busy themselves with what’s on their agenda, mostly food, tens of times smaller than your average human. 

Only in the case that we mentioned above, and that case itself is highly unlikely since you would have to been bitten very nastily by a docile species of animal, that bite would have to brush against the animal in a very specific angle against a very specific part of their head or body. 

There are ways in which salamanders can be dangerous for people, but, biting is not something one should fear when dealing with or keep a salamander.

Source Val Johnson : californiaherps

Can they be otherwise poisonous?

Yes, and very much so. The majority of the numerous species of salamander are in fact poisonous.

They secrete poison on their skin, mostly their back or tail. Some species use their tail to hunt. It would be more accurate to say that they sacrifice the tail to gain food.

They will secrete a large amount of poison to kill their prey and offer that tail to an unsuspecting animal, who, not knowing any better, will conclude that it has gone from prey to the ultimate predator, to whom the animals offer themselves up all by themselves. 

But that is all a ploy for the salamander to get its filling. The animal will eat the tail and die a few moments later, its corpse now a delight to the salamander’s appetites.

That is why you have to be both careful and knowledgeable with a salamander. You need to know what species are poisonous and which are not. And you have to know, in the case that the species does produce poison, where the poison is being secreted. 

Do not just pet it all over its body like it were a dog or a cat, it could cost you greatly if you touch a wound, your eye or the inside of your mouth by accident later down the line.

A bit of being irresponsible around a salamander can get you hurt. In most cases, the poison will only cause skin irritation.

But touching a salamander can be dangerous for the animal as much as it is dangerous for a human. All kinds of skin products that one uses daily can have chemicals that could cause harm to the animal. The harm can be quite striking.

Since the skin is connected to the rest of the body, without any natural barriers for the bad stuff that could run through the skin, the chemicals might attack not only the skin but also damage the skeleton below the skin. 

That is why it is always the best policy to use vinyl gloves or keep washing your hands with water only.

Or avoid touching them in general, unless you really have to. Be more careful around younger salamanders. The level of toxicity and its concentration is known the decrease with their age.

Conclusion

By now you know a lot more about salamanders and their biting habits. You have learned that however unlikely, salamanders bite when they mistake your hand for food and that they only want something do to with their primary food source.

I hope that you have learned that you have to be cautious when you think about touching a salamander. Not only because it can be damaging for the animal, but it can also be dangerous for yourself (not deadly).

Irritation on the eyes or other parts of the body is never a fun thing to have and should be avoided. I also hope that you have learned a little more about how the poison gets secreted with salamanders and how it gets secreted over de body of the animal. 

For further reading

If you found this article helpful and you enjoyed reading it, I think you will also enjoy the articles below.

Do you want to know where salamanders live? Here’s an article I wrote about where they live.

Do you want more information about if salamanders are poisonous and dangerous for people?

Then read my article that goes in-depth about salamanders.

Where do salamanders live in the wild?

Where do salamanders live

Salamanders are amazing creatures and it’s great to see them a wild.

It’s also interesting to learn about where salamanders live and the different environments that various salamander species enjoy. So, where do salamanders live?

Salamanders are found around the globe, particularly in the Northern Hemisphere. This includes North America, Europe, Central America, Northern Asia and the Mediterranean.

The Amazon Basin is the only natural salamander habitat in the Southern Hemisphere.

Water is essential to a salamander’s survival, so salamander’s live in wet environments.

Each type of salamander enjoys a slightly different habitat. In this article, we find out where several different types of salamanders live.

Where do Tiger Salamanders live?

Barred Tiger Salamander (Ambystoma mavortium) smiling and crawling in moss

One of the most common species of salamanders is the Tiger salamander (Ambystoma tigrinum). Its native habitat spans the continental US, as well as Southern Canada and Northern Mexico.

Tiger Salamanders usually have a black or very dark coloured body, with larger yellowish spots or stripes. It’s these stripes that give the Tiger Salamander its name.

Tiger Salamanders are usually found near seasonal bodies of freshwater, such as small streams and ponds. They lay their eggs in the water, as their larvae are exclusively aquatic.

Although they can grow to 14 inches long, spotting a Tiger Salamander can still be a challenge. They tend to spend most of their day in a wet underground burrow and are most active at night.

If you want to spot one of these highly secretive creatures, you should look during the rainy season. They tend to become more active and venture away from the safety of their burrows just after rainfall.

Where do Axolotls live?

The Axolotl (Ambystoma mexicanum), also known as the “Mexican walking fish”, is a unique and very interesting species of salamander.

Axolotls normally spend their entire life in an aquatic environment, because they reach sexual maturity without any kind of metamorphosis!

Despite having little resemblance and not becoming terrestrial as they mature, they are close relatives of the Tiger salamander.

Axolotls have a very limited natural habitat. They once lived in the lakes around Mexico City. Now, the canals of Xochimilco, the remnants of one of these lakes, is the only place they are still found.

Their natural environment has been drained and polluted due to the constant expansion of Mexico City. The Axolotl is currently critically endangered, with only a very small population still alive in the wild.

This salamander species is widely known for its exceptionally refined regenerative process. Axolotls are able to regenerate limbs and vital body parts. This includes damaged internal organs and parts of their spine.

Where do Slimy Salamanders live?

A close up of a Northern Slimy Salamander in natural habitat.

Contrary to the Axolotl, the Northern Slimy Salamander (Plethodon glutinosus) is completely terrestrial. It does not have an aquatic larval stage.

Slimy Salamanders are very common in the Eastern and Central US. They inhabit woodlands and ravines, always staying close to bodies of water.

Slimy Salamanders are usually between 5 and 7 inches long. As you would expect from their name, they have a characteristically slimy skin. They prefer moist soil and usually hide during the day beneath logs and rocks or in burrows.

They are nocturnal predators and most active on damper nights.

Slimy Salamanders are usually black with very small white or yellowish dots on their body. This makes them very hard to spot in low-light situations.

To find a Slimy Salamander in the wild, it would be best to search woodland after heavy rainfall. Even then, you would probably need to look under objects to discover their hiding places.

Where do Fire Salamanders live?

The Fire salamander (Salamandra salamandra) is native to Europe. Its habitat includes most of the western, central and Balkan areas of the continent.

Fire Salamanders usually live in forests. Though smaller, they are similar to Tiger Salamanders, as both have black bodies with yellowish spots.

During the daytime, Fire Salamanders usually hide beneath fallen tree trunks and leaves, trying to keep themselves moist and cool.

In the evening and at night, they hunt for insects and other smaller animals.

Just like most Salamanders, Fire Salamanders tend to live near bodies of water, where they can lay their eggs.

If you know how to search for them, they can be a quite common sight in the European woodlands. This is especially true after rainfall, which makes them more energetic.

Where do Spotted Salamanders live?

A close up of a young Spotted Salamander on a green leaf.

Spotted Salamanders are native to densely forested areas of the Eastern US and South-Eastern Canada.

Spotted salamanders have similar coloring to Tiger Salamanders, though are usually smaller. The main ways to tell them apart are their size difference and comparatively smaller yellow spots.

Spotted Salamanders generally live near seasonal pools of water that have no fish. The lack of fish is important in order for the salamanders to breed, as fish eat their eggs and larvae.

Like all Salamanders, Spotted Salamanders need a cool, damp environment. They spend most of their time underground and rarely venture outside.

Their reclusive nature is what makes Spotted Salamanders a rare sight. If you wish to find one, your best bet is just after heavy rainfall, and preferably towards the evening.

Where do Japanese Fire-Bellied Newts live?

Newts are salamanders with one main difference. Where adult salamanders are mostly land-based, adult newts have a semi-aquatic lifestyle.

Otherwise, newts and salamanders are very similar in terms of habitat and behavior. They live in the same moist environments, with little ponds and slow-moving bodies of water.

The Japanese Fire-Bellied Newt (Cynops pyrrhogaster) is native to the dense forests of the Japanese archipelago.

They usually have a black or dark brown back, with reddish spots on their belly. They can grow to around 5.5 – 6’’ long, which makes them medium-sized compared to most other salamanders on this list.

Please note: this particular newt is very poisonous! Their skin secretes a very potent neurotoxin. If you spot a Japanese Fire-Bellied Newt, it would be a good idea to leave them alone…

Find out which salamanders are poisonous.

Are Salamanders Poisonous (And Dangerous For People)?

Are salamanders poisonous? yes why?

Salamanders are not very common pets, but if you want to keep a salamander as a pet, you should probably know whether are poisonous. Read on to find out…

Are salamanders poisonous? Can salamanders kill you? Yes, salamanders are poisonous. They secrete toxins through their skin and when these toxins get ingested they can be poisonous.

The toxicity varies per species and the juveniles are generally more toxic than adults.

Normally salamanders are creatures that do no harm. But it is good to know that all salamanders species are poisonous and it is therefore best to keep handling salamanders to a minimum!

Salamanders are toxic when you eat them, when you ingest their secretion, or when you “play” with them. For instance, if you pick them up with your hands and then rub your eyes.

The poison that a salamander carries is made in the parotoid or granular glands. Some people say that salamanders get poisonous through eating and drinking or otherwise obtaining strong bacteria such as Vibrio spp.

Are salamanders a danger to people?

Though they are poisonous, and can therefore be dangerous, salamanders are not usually a major threat to people.

They are normally very shy creatures that would rather flee from you than come up to you. They are completely harmless if you don’t touch them or otherwise ingest their toxins.

Related article: Do salamanders bite?

And you can be dangerous to salamanders too! Salamanders have very absorbent skin, so bacteria, oils, and salts from our hands can harm them. Things like sunblock and hand lotion can cause serious damage to a salamander. This is another reason why, with salamanders, it’s best to look but not touch.

If you do need to handle them, make sure that you have washed your hands beforehand or you can always go out and buy some vinyl gloves. This way the salamander is safe from anything that is on your hands.

What is the most poisonous salamander?

Rough skinned newt in its habitat

The most toxic salamander is the Rough-Skinned Newt.

The Rough-Skinned Newt is found in North America, from Santa Cruz County all the way to San Francisco Bay and Alaska. It is also found on several islands, including Vancouver Island.

Related article: Where do salamanders live?

Habitat of the Rough-Skinned Newt

The rough-skinned newt is found both on land and in aquatic environments. Though they spend most of the time on land.

They mostly go to water during breeding season, when it is time to mate.

An interesting fact is that the Rough-Skinned Newt becomes temporarily aquatic when there is a dry season. It is also possible for this newt to spend its whole life in the water.

What does a Rough-Skinned Newt look like?

Unsurprisingly, the Rough-Skinned Newt has a rough and grainy skin.

They are dark with orange coloration and about 12.7 to 21.6 cm in length. Their eyes are small and do not extend past the edges of his head as you can see in the picture.

You can also see that they have yellow irises and that the lower part of the eyelids are orange.

What you can’t see on the picture are the vomerine teeth. A salamander’s teeth are arranged in a V-shaped pattern.

Does a salamander make a good pet?

Now that you know salamanders are poisonous, you might want to know whether they make good pets…

If you just want an animal to look at behind glass, a salamander is a great pet. However, if you want a pet that you can really interact with, hold, and play with, you’d be better choosing something else.

If you do decide to go for a salamander as a pet, we recommend the Tiger salamander (also known as Ambystoma tigrinum).

This is a common pet salamander because they are attractive and fairly easy to care for. This species grows to 13 cm in length and has a lifespan of about 25 years if you take good care of them.

Pet salamander habitat

The stage your tiger salamander is in will dictate what kind of tank setup you need.

If he’s still in the larval stage you need a fully aquatic tank. But when the salamander ages and grows gills, you would need to set up a semi-aquatic and land habitat so they can also go on the land.

Once they are fully grown, you should move your salamander to a 20-gallon tank. Make sure that the temperature in the enclosure is around 65 to 70F and add plenty of hiding spaces, rocks, and enough bark and rocks.

The feeding of this salamander is fairly easy. when he is still in the larval stage you can feed him shrimp, insects, small fish, and worms. When he grows into an adult you can feed him crickets, earthworms, and other insects.

Again… Keep the touching to a minimum!

What are salamanders good for?

Believe it or not, salamanders are quite good for the environment and human beings in general. They play an essential role in keeping insect and arthropod populations in balance. Salamanders hunt these species and in this way they are helpful to humans because they act as a natural “pest control”.

Another way in which salamanders are good for us is that they can prevent serious health issues by preying on insects. You see, salamanders also hunt mosquitoes and ticks. The bites of both of these animals can be very dangerous and by eating these insects, salamanders help to minimize the spread of diseases.

So even though salamanders are poisonous, they also help us survive here on planet earth!

What to do if you find a salamander

First of all, you need to know that you should not touch the salamander because they are poisonous. But if you find one in your home or basement, you should move them outside.

To avoid touching them, grab a small net and transfer the salamander outside.

If the salamander you found has a flattened and paddle-like tail, it likely is a newt and therefore you should put him nearby a pond or wetland. Put him on the edge, not in the water. This way the newt can decide for itself whether it wants to go into the pond or move to another place.

If the salamander you found has a stubby, fat tail, you can release him in a forest or woodland area. This should preferably be close to where you found the animal.

Related questions

Can salamanders regrow limbs? Salamanders are capable of regrowing limbs within a few weeks! This includes tails and toes. This is awesome because it helps them to survive attacks from predators.

Where does the name salamander come from? The name comes from the Greek word for Fire Lizard. Salamanders would often hide in logs and come running out when the log was thrown on a fire. When the greek saw this, they named them salamanders.

What is the largest salamander in the world? The largest salamander in the world id the Chinese Giant Salamander. This particular type of salamander can grow to a length of 5 feet!