The waters of the Japanese pond are clear and inviting, surrounded by the large tree rhododendrons and azalea bushes. However, you may find you’re distracted by the antics of the newts that have now returned to mate and lay eggs. The winter rains prompt the newts to migrate to the Garden’s Japanese Pool where their mating behaviors can be easily observed by visitors. Any at time of day or night and in all weather, you’ll see the males either cruising for a mate or holding her in a firm embrace.
The egg masses now appearing on lily stems and other vegetation are a particularly comforting sight because of dwindling newt populations. While the California newt migration to the pond is a regular winter event, one never grows tired of watching them.
The Garden is home to two newt species, Taricha torosa (California newt) and Taricha granulosa (rough-skin newt). The adults are difficult to distinguish even to the trained eye, but their egg masses are distinctive. The clear gelatinous balls with distinctive eggs that are most easily seen are those of T. torosa. As the season progresses, it is easy to watch these little round eggs develop into the small larval newts that will hatch in a few weeks. The adults will gradually leave the water over the next few months and move back into the Garden, hopefully, to return next year and for many years after.
If you’d like to learn more about our Garden newts, here is a podcast
by former Garden Director, Paul Licht.
Paul Licht began his career as a zoology professor at UC Berkeley. When presenting him with the Berkeley Citation, his colleagues noted “his research into the factors that determine sexual differentiation, sexual maturation and reproductive physiology in a wide variety of species-including amphibians, reptiles, and mammals-has resulted in more than 300 publications and has made him one of most respected comparative endocrinologists in the world.”
Further Reading About Newts
Newts perform rites of spring at UC by Joe Eaton and Ron Sullivan, San Francisco Chronicle
An Extraordinary Time-Lapse Captures the Microscopic Development of a Single Cell into a Newt Kate Sierzputowski, Colossal