Sometimes people refer to newts as salamanders, and that's true. Newts are members of the scientific order Salamandridae. However, not all salamanders are newts. Newts are part of the subfamily known as Pleurodelinae.
Found throughout the waterways of North America, Europe, and Asia, newts develop in three distinct stages. They begin life as aquatic larvae. As they grow, they stay mainly on land and are called efts. When they reach adulthood, they have fully-developed lizard-like bodies.
Some varieties of adult newts spend all their time in the water. Other types are semi-aquatic, living most of the time on land and only returning to the water annually to breed.
Newts can boast some special features that make them unique creatures. For example, newts can regenerate missing body parts, including their arms and legs, eyes, intestines, jaws, heart, and spinal cord!
The rough-skinned newt that lives in the Pacific Northwest can produce enough tetrodotoxin to kill an adult human. Fortunately, a newt's toxins are only lethal when swallowed or absorbed through mucous membranes or breaks in the skin.
The presence or absence of newts in a particular area can give scientists a good idea of the overall health of a particular body of water. Since they absorb oxygen and other needed nutrients through their skin, diminished water quality can force newts to seek new habitats.