Comprehensive DescriptionRead full entry
A large-bodied salamander. Terrestrial adults have a light brown to dark brown dorsum with a yellowish to orange belly. The skin is dry with small bumps or warts and costal grooves are not visible. The eyes are large and the lower eyelids are yellow. Adult males in the breeding season develop smooth or slimy skin, a lighter body color, enlarged tail fins, and swollen cloacal glands (Storer, 1925; Stebbins, 1985). Adults are 6.9 - 8.7 cm snout to vent lenght (12.5 - 20 cm total length) (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Two allopatric subspecies are currently recognized based on geographic distribution (see below) and coloration. Taricha t. sierrae, the Sierra newt, is reddish to chocolate brown dorsally and burnt orange to yellow below. The eyelids and snout have conspicuous light coloring. Taricha t. torosa, the Coast Range newt, is yellowish to dark brown dorsally and pale yellow to orange ventrally. The eyelids and snout are not as conspicuously colored as in T. t. sierrae. (Riemer 1958; Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). Hatchlings are 10-14 mm total length. The larvae are pond type with bushy gills, balancer organs and a well-developed dorsal tail fin which extends forward to the shoulder region (Stebbins 1985; Petranka 1998). The dorsum of larvae is light yellow with two dark, narrow bands (Riemer 1958; Stebbins 1985).
Taricha torosa may be distinguished from close relatives (T. granulosa and T. rivularis) by the Y-shaped pattern of the vomerine teeth, the light-colored lower eyelids, relatively large eyes, and lack of a tomato red belly. The defensive posture differs between T. torosa and T. granulosa (see below) (Petranka 1998).
Extremely warty newts found in many localities in San Diego Co. have been described as a separate subspecies, T. t. klauberi (Riemer 1958). This subspecies is not currently recognized because the presence of warts is thought to be caused by a pathogenic agent (Stebbins 1951; 1985). Some authors have suggested recognizing the coastal and sierran forms as separate species (e.g. Collins 1991), but this suggestion has not been widely accepted (e.g. Petranka 1998).