A newt with conspicuous black spots distributed over the entire body. Dorsally olive green with small yellow or gold flecks, sometimes forming larger spots. A broken, wavy yellow dorsolateral line which runs from the base of the head and onto the tail is seen in some northern populations. Ventral coloration is yellow to orange. Adults are 3.5-5.7 cm snout to vent length (7-11 cm total length). Breeding males develop a tail fin and cornified toe tips. This species apparently does not have the well defined 'eft' stage seen in other eastern North American newts. Two subspecies are currently recognized. The Mexican newt (N. m. kallerti) is relatively dark dorsally and the black dorsal spots are sometimes indistinct against the ground color. The Texas black-spotted newt (N. m. meridionalis) is somewhat stockier in build. The larvae are greyish brown dorsally and pale buff ventrally. Larvae have lateral and ventrolateral rows of light dots on the sides, and also faintly visible bars on the sides of the head. Diffuse dark pigment on the venter sometimes forms a light midventral band. As larvae age, this darker ventral pigment becomes concentrated in small spots; larger spots appear on the sides. (Mecham 1968a; 1968b; Petranka 1998).
Genetically, N. meridionalis is more closely related to N. peristriatus than to N. viridescens (Reilly 1990).
occurs (regularly, as a native taxon) in multiple nations
Regularity: Regularly occurring
Type of Residency: Year-round
Global Range: (20,000-200,000 square km (about 8000-80,000 square miles)) This species occurs along the Gulf Coastal Plain, from south of the San Antonio River in Texas southward along the Atlantic versant to Tamaulipas, northern Veracruz, and southeastern San Luis Potosi, Mexico. It has never been found more than 130 km inland. It occurs from sea level to 800 m.
Distribution and Habitat
From southeastern Texas, south of the San Antonio River, along the Coast Plain to northern Mexico, in Puebla and Veracruz. In mainly lowlying coastal areas, but also in the foothills of the Sierra Madre Occidental, and the Sierra de Tamaulipas. Habitat includes both seasonally ephemeral and permanent aquatic habitats. Individuals may be found >2 m deep in heavily vegetated sites (Mecham 1968a; 1968b; Petranka 1998).
Length: 11 cm
The large black spots and yellowish stripes distinguish this species from NOTOPHTHALMUS VIRIDESCENS.
Habitat and Ecology
Comments: Adults, juveniles, and larvae inhabit permanent and temporary ponds, roadside ditches, and quiet stream pools, habitats that are relatively uncommon in at least the northern part of the range. It is usually found among submerged vegetation (e.g., Chara). It is found under rocks and other shelter when ponds dry up. The eggs are attached to submerged vegetation in shallow water (Garrett and Barker 1987).
Non-Migrant: Yes. At least some populations of this species do not make significant seasonal migrations. Juvenile dispersal is not considered a migration.
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make local extended movements (generally less than 200 km) at particular times of the year (e.g., to breeding or wintering grounds, to hibernation sites).
Locally Migrant: No. No populations of this species make annual migrations of over 200 km.
Comments: Eats various of small aquatic animals (insects, leeches, worms, mollusks, crustaceans, and small amphibians and their eggs) (Garrett and Barker 1987).
Number of Occurrences
Note: For many non-migratory species, occurrences are roughly equivalent to populations.
Estimated Number of Occurrences: 1 - 20
Comments: Many historical occurrences are no longer extant. USFWS survey in mid-1980s reported 5 localities, 2 in Texas and 3 in Mexico, of 221 surveyed. The localities in Mexico are few and far between, and it now seems to be absent from two of the three known localities in Mexico. It still exists in Siberia in northern Veracruz.
Comments: The species has never been found to be abundant at any locality. A maximum of 25 individuals found at one site.
Life History and Behavior
Comments: Apparently active throughout the year. Easiest to find in early spring or after rains.
Apparently no distinct breeding season; depends on availability of water; may peak in spring (Garrett and Barker 1987). Larvae appear a few weeks after egg laying, metamorphose after about 3 months (Garrett and Barker 1987). No eft stage.
Molecular Biology and Genetics
Barcode data: Notophthalmus meridionalis
Below is the sequence of the barcode region Cytochrome oxidase subunit 1 (COI or COX1) from a member of the species.
See the BOLD taxonomy browser for more complete information about this specimen.
Other sequences that do not yet meet barcode criteria may also be available.
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Download FASTA File
Statistics of barcoding coverage: Notophthalmus meridionalis
Public Records: 1
Specimens with Barcodes: 1
Species With Barcodes: 1
IUCN Red List Assessment
Red List Category
Red List Criteria
National NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded National Status Rank: N1 - Critically Imperiled
NatureServe Conservation Status
Rounded Global Status Rank: G1 - Critically Imperiled
Reasons: Massive habitat alteration and destruction has occurred within the historical range in Texas and Mexico; breeding sites are localized and patchy; low abundance.
Intrinsic Vulnerability: Moderately vulnerable
Environmental Specificity: Narrow to moderate.
Global Short Term Trend: Decline of 10-30%
Comments: Apparently still declining in Texas (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999). The populations in Mexico also seem to be very small and declining, but more field work is needed to verify the status of the species there.
Global Long Term Trend: Decline of 50-70%
Comments: Once rather common in Texas, now seldom seen (Bartlett and Bartlett 1999).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Little is known about the natural history of this species. Breeding may occur in any month and is tied to rainfall. Individuals may not move very far when forced to leave drying ponds (Mecham 1968a; 1968b; Petranka 1998).
Degree of Threat: Very high - high
Comments: Extensive habitat alteration in Texas and northeastern Mexico has had a severe impact on this newt. It has become endangered in Texas due to insecticide and herbicide use (Dixon 1987). Water pollution is also a major problem in Mexico.
Biological Research Needs: Research is needed on demography, water quality requirements of aquatic stages, terrestrial habitat requirements, and diet.
Global Protection: Unknown whether any occurrences are appropriately protected and managed
Comments: It is not known to occur in any protected areas in Mexico, and these are needed where the species is found to still survive. It may be indirectly protected on two national wildlife refuges in Texas. This species is listed as "Endangered" by the Mexican government.
Needs: Identify, characterize, and protect occurrences.
The black-spotted newt grow to 2.9-4.3 in (7.1–11 cm) long, and is typically an olive green in color, with numerous black spots. The underside is often yellow in color, which can sometimes extend up to the sides. They have smooth skin, and a paddle-shaped, vertically flattened tail. They live in quiet stretches of streams and permanent and temporary ponds and ditches.
Black-spotted newts prefer shallow-water habitats, heavy with vegetation. They are carnivorous, consuming a wide variety of prey, including insects, aquatic invertebrates, leeches, and other amphibians. Their toxic skin secretions are used to deter predators. Breeding occurs year round. The young do not go through an eft stage, and when drought strikes, are forced on to land.
N. meridionalis can be found in the states of Tamaulipas, Veracruz, and San Luis Potosí in Mexico, barely extending into northeastern Hidalgo and Puebla. It is also found in southern Texas along the Gulf of Mexico.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Black-spotted newt.|
|Wikispecies has information related to: Black-spotted newt|
- Flores-Villela et al. (2004). Notophthalmus meridionalis. 2006. IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. IUCN 2006. www.iucnredlist.org. Retrieved on 11 May 2006. Database entry includes a range map and justification for why this species is endangered
- "Black-spotted Newt (Notophthalmus meridionalis)". Wildlife Fact Sheets. Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. Retrieved 2010-04-28.
- Amphibian Species of the World: Notophthalmus meridionalis
- Herps of Texas: Notophthalmus meridionalis
- Ellen Trout Zoo: Black-spotted Newt
- National Audubon Society Field Guide to Reptiles and Amphibians
Names and Taxonomy
Comments: See Reilly (1990) for information on phylogenetic relationships of the 3 species of NOTOPHTHALMUS.
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