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Photo credit: Gary Nafis

Black-spotted newt (Notophthalmus meridionalis) | ESA status: petitioned for listing

Black-spotted newt

The black-spotted newt is silvery gray in color with bold black and light-yellow spots. It exposes its orange-yellow belly when disturbed, warning potential predators of its toxic, irritating skin.

Black-spotted newts tend to be secretive. They hide in fissures, under debris, and in crab and crayfish burrows to escape the periodic dry spells and high temperatures of their dramatic habitat.

Black-spotted newt habitat

The black-spotted newt can be found amid the clay soil, ephemeral pools, and dense brush of the Tamaulipan thorn scrub—a rich ecosystem present only in the Lower Rio Grande Valley of south Texas and northeastern Mexico. The Tamaulipan thorn scrub is home to more than 1,700 plant and animal species, including the extremely rare ocelot and jaguarundi.

Though black-spotted newts seem to prefer thorn scrub to other environments, they were once fairly common along the Gulf Coastal Plain, from south of the San Antonio River in Texas down to the northern tip of the Veracruz region in Mexico, but much of that habitat has been lost.

What are the threats to the black-spotted newt?

There are only three known populations of black-spotted newts remaining—two in Texas and one in Mexico. The newt’s habitat—including as much as 97 percent of Tamaulipan thorn scrub—has succumbed to clearing for urban development, agriculture, and cattle grazing. Increasingly severe drought and hurricanes, brought on by climate change, also threaten its coastal home. Yet another menace: water pollution—including herbicides and insecticides—threatens the newt, as is the case with most amphibians.

The newt is classified as “endangered” in Mexico, but though it faces many of the same threats on both sides of the border, it has not received any federal protection in the United States.

What WildEarth Guardians is doing to preserve the black-spotted newt

These rare creatures deserve full protection under the Endangered Species Act, which would safeguard them and their extremely rare habitat. We petitioned for their listing and will continue to urge the federal government to take action.