The air is thick with moisture this morning. My glasses quickly fog and I remove them, decidedly better off with just sub-par vision. Thunder claps in the distance and I realize the day’s rain may arrive earlier than expected. Juvenile eastern (red-spotted) newts or “efts” are more aware of the imminent wet conditions and lie within the trail. Their bright orange skin contrasts with the dark brown of earth, warning even poor-sighted potential predators like myself of their toxicity. This use of coloration as a defense mechanism is called aposematism.
Efts are entirely terrestrial, developing lungs in place of gills when metamorphosing from an aquatic larvae. They can inhabit moist woods for 6 years, preying on springtails and other insects, before maturing into an olive-colored adult, reacquiring gills, and spending the remainder of life in freshwater.