Added 4 March 2004. Last updated 12 March 2006: added Tylotriton vietnamensis.

The Family Salamandridae: Newts and Salamanders

Genus Tylotriton - Crocodile/Mandarin/Emperor Newts

Tylotriton is a genus of medium-sized terrestrial newts largely found within the area of China. There are various common names, including Crocodile, Emperor and Mandarin. One species is regularly seen in the pet trade and is considered fairly easy and hardy species in captivity if kept correctly.

Zhao et al (see Bibliography) consider the genus to be primitive in comparison with the other Chinese genera of the Family Salamandridae, all of which are considerably more aquatic. Some species formerly considered Tylotriton are now members of the genus Echinotriton instead.

External characteristics of the genus are given by Zhao et al as follows: labial folds inconspicuous; vertebral ridge noticeable; skin very rough, with warts and tubercles; head broad and large with noticeable ridge, caused by structure of the bones; limbs long, tips of fingers or toes overlap when appressed: fingers and toes slim and small; tongue small, free at both edges. Lives on land outside of the reproductive period.

Identity of individual species is not easy, although there is some colour variation (see for example the colour plates for Tylotriton species in Adler and Zhao). Usually however it is the hardier T. shanjing/T. verrucosus that is sold in the trade, which makes things easier. Indiviglio, Mattison and Patterson give care instructions for these attractive newts, with Indiviglio's perhaps being the most comprehensive. It is important to note that they are terrestrial, not aquatic, and that they seem to do best at temperatures of 65-70 deg F. See also Marc Staniszewski's Mandarin FAQ.

One thing that must be stressed is that the skin of these newts is very toxic. Please make sure to wash your hands after handling one. It is strongly recommended that children not be allowed to touch them unsupervised, if at all.

T. hainanensis, Hainan Crocodile Newt T. kweichowensis, Kweichow Crocodile Newt T. shanjing, Mandarin Newt
T. taliangensis, Taliang Crocodile Newt T. verrucosus, Crocodile Newt T. vietnamensis, Wenxian Crocodile Newt
T. wenxianensis, Wenxian Crocodile Newt    

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
T. hainanensis Hainan Crocodile Newt S China (W Guizhou and NE Yunnan) ? Found at 1,940m altitude: known only from type locality. LivingUnderworld (see Links) note that on the basis of known data this species would fit into the wolterstorffi group, which would make it similar if not the same in coloration and other identifying characteristics to C. wolterstorffi and C. cyanurus. Skin rather smooth: vertebral ridge not prominent. Coloration: row of orange-yellow lateral spots from shoulder to base of tail: females have conspicuous spots on tail.
T. kweichowensis Kweichow Crocodile Newt / Black-Headed Emperor Newt S China (W Guizhou and NE Yunnan) ? Coloration: plate 4F in Adler and Zhao shows a mainly blackish individual, the usual orange being confined to the tail, dorsolateral and vertebral ridges, and tips of the toes and fingers. The head also appears to be a slightly different shape to that of T. verrucosus.
T. shanjing Mandarin Newt S China (SW Yunnan), N Laos, N Burma 6"/ 15cm Until 1995 individuals of this species were considered to be part of T. verrucosus. This has led to considerable confusion, for although similar in appearance, T. shanjing is much more terrestrial than T. verrucosus. See Links for further information. Coloration: the sides and dorsum are a dark brown, but the tail, head, limbs and vertebral ridge are bright orange. The dorsolateral "knobs" are also orange, standing out distinctively against the brown coloration on either side.
T. taliangensis Taliang Crocodile Newt/Black Emperor Newt S China (SW Sichuan), India (Sikkim, Darjeeling), N Burma   Staniszewski notes that this is a much more difficult species to maintain in captivity. Coloration: plate 4G in Adler and Zhao shows an almost entirely black specimen apart from the posterior half of the ridges behind the eye, which are the usual orange colour. As a rule the parotoids and toes are orange, the rest of the animal is black.
T. verrucosus   S China (W Yunnan), India (Sikkim, Darjeeling), N Burma, Thailand and N Vietnam   Coloration: similar in appearance to T. shanjing but duller.
T. vietnamensis   N Vietnam (Bac Giang Province)   This species was first named in 2005 (see Bibliography). It is found in lowland forest. The head is flattened and the skin covered with relatively small warts and glands. Coloration: dorsally uniform greyish tan or light brownish in life, lacking larger orange or red dorsal markings. Reproduction: the authors suggest presumably in forest pools during rainy season.
T. wenxianensis Wenxian Crocodile Newt      


Studies on Chinese Salamanders, Er-mi Zhao, Qixiong Hu, Yaoming Zhang and Yuhua Yang, Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles, 1988. Key English-language work on all the Caudata found in China.

Herpetology of China, Er-mi Zhao and Kraig Adler, SSAR, 1993. Catalogue of practically every reptile and amphibian species found in mainland China, Hongkong, Macao, Tibet and Taiwan. There are few details of the ecology of the animals, but readers are referred to a very comprehensive bibliography, and colour plates are provided for many of the creatures listed.

Keeping and Breeding Amphibians, Chris Mattison, Blandford Press, 1993.

Newts & Salamanders - a complete pet owner's manual, Frank Indiviglio, Barrons 1997.

Newts, Jordan Patterson, TFH, 1994.

"Crocodile and Emperor Newts", Jerry G Walls, Reptile Hobbyist 3:10. Walls also gives a handy Bibliography at the end of this article.

"Emperor Newt", Reptile Hobbyist 1:5, author unknown.

"Mandarin Salamander, Tylotriton verrucosus, Index of Species", Reptilia 5, M Aresté & J L Farriols.

"A new species of salamander, genus Tylotriton (Urodela: Salamandridae), from northern Vietnam", Salamandra Vol 41:4, Wolfgang Böhme, Thomas Schöttler, Nguyen Quang Truong & Jörn Köhler.

There is also an article in Reptilian 3:6 on Mandarin Salamanders.


Both the following are recommended if you are planning to keep a Crocodile Newt or two:

LivingUnderworld.Org has a very important section on the Tylotriton species and particularly the differences between T. shanjing and T. verrucosus.

Marc Staniszewski has a very useful Mandarin FAQ on his website.

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