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Rains Lure California Newts Home to Mate (Video)

by on March 05, 2014

After the long dry spell, the onset of rain is bringing the Bay Area back to life. All the puddles and ponds forming here and there are creating mating habitat for California newts, which you can bet have been waiting all season to congregate and let out steam to procreate.

Taricha tarosa spends most of its life in rocks crevices and in logs happily munching invertebrates like earthworms, snails and crickets. But when the heavens fall, as they typically do between December and May, California newts return to their watery birthplace, usually the very same pond, to find their mates.

Videographer Ian Nelson set out recently with his GoPro Hero 3 underwater camera to visit a pond a short distance up from Spring Lake at Annadel State Park in Santa Rosa. He’s been there before, so he knows that’s where to find newts in action. He mounted his camera to a tripod and sank it in the water near the shoreline.

“It’s all guesswork since I don’t have a live monitor with the camera, I just had to point and shoot where I thought framing would be best and of course, with a little luck, I was able to capture some truly amazing moments,” Nelson said.

It took him three days, and this is what he got:

California Newts & Frogs from Ian Nelson on Vimeo.

As you might have guessed, all that gripping and gliding is the newts’ mating dance — called “amplexus.” The female is on the underside, doing all the paddling while the male clings to her underbelly. Apparently he’s able to grip her slippery skin because of the rough patches he grows on the bottoms of his feet in the fall.

Oddly enough, the lovers don’t actually mate in this way. Consider it all foreplay. Instead, after a relaxing period of water play, the male detaches and drops a spermatophore (a mound of gelatinous substance with a sperm capsule on top), and the female retrieves it. They then go their separate ways.

You’ll find the fruits of their labor later if you look closely among the plant roots or rocky crevices in slow-moving water. The clear-white egg masses, which contain between seven and 30 eggs, are thick and gelatinous. The larvae hatch sometime in early to mid summer, depending on the local water temperature.

Alison Hawkes is the online editor at Bay Nature.

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Beverly Lazor on March 6th, 2014 at 8:58 am

These are amazing images. What a great video! I would love to see more of his work. thank you for sharing this. Bev

Annie on March 8th, 2014 at 10:28 am

Very interesting video, so great to see these beautiful creatures in their environment!

Simon on March 9th, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Great video!!!

K Mag on March 11th, 2014 at 1:01 pm

Watching the newts swimming is fabulous. (Last week,as I was planning an upcoming camping trip, I was wondering how plentiful salamanders, frogs and newts might be this spring, given that it’s a record-drought year.)

Bay Nature rocks my world!

Meg Rosenfeld on March 14th, 2014 at 9:57 pm

Years ago I lived in Santa Rosa and used to hike in Annadel every chance I got, sometimes twice or three times a week. I remember seeing the newts on wet winter days, walking along the paths. This film brings it all back. So glad to see that there’s been enough rain up there that the newts can mate.

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[…] Here’s a great, short film of California newts at Spring Lake in Annadel State Park from BAY NATURE MAGAZINE: http://baynature.org/2014/03/05/rains-bring-california-newts-home-mate-video […]

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[…] and if you like Newt Videos here is one more: Rains Lure California Newts Home to Mate (Video) « Bay Nature. […]

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