Sardinian brook newt (Euproctus platycephalus)

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Sardinian brook newt
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Sardinian brook newt fact file

Sardinian brook newt description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderCaudata
FamilySalamandridae
GenusEuproctus (1)

The Sardinian brook newt (Euproctus platycephalus) has a slender body with a flattened head; the tail is low and oval in cross-section. The upper jaw overhangs the lower, and the lips are well developed (5). The extremities are slender and the front leg carries four, and the hind leg five, toes; males have a small spur on the hind legs. The male cloaca is hook-shaped, whilst that of the female is more or less cone-shaped (5). The skin is relatively smooth, with a few unevenly distributed warts. Coloration is variable; the upper surface may be grey, brown or olive, with variable numbers of brown, green, red or black spots along the back (5). The underside is frequently yellowish or reddish, particularly along the centre of the belly, and usually dark spotted, especially in males. The throat is usually spotted (1), and there is a white, yellowish, bright-brown, rust-brown or dark-brown stripe along the backbone (5).

Size
Total length: Up to 15 cm, but usually smaller (1).
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Sardinian brook newt biology

The Sardinian newt is the most aquatic member of the genus and individuals can be found in the water year round. Mating takes place in the water, either following hibernation in April and May, or after aestivation in the autumn (5). Mouth open, the male actively searches for a female, he then grabs her with his mouth and takes her to a suitable mating place (5). Females lay their eggs individually under rocks and in cracks, with use of their elongated cloaca. In captivity, eggs have been laid on the substrate or under sand. Observations on the development of eggs are only known from captivity (5); larval periods can be very long and may last for more then a year, at temperatures of 15 degrees Celcius. Larvae that develop in stagnant waters seem to grow larger than those in running waters. The discovery of sexually mature animals with gill vestiges suggests a tendency towards the retention of juvenile characteristics (termed ‘paedomorphosis’) in this species (5).

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Sardinian brook newt range

The Sardinian brook newt is endemic to the eastern part of the island of Sardinia. Its range is restricted to the region between the Limbara Mountains in the North and the Sarrabus Mountains in the South, reaching east from Monte Linas to Baunei. The range is centred on the Limbara Mountains, the Gennargentu Mountains, and the Mountains of Gerrei and Sarrabus (5).

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Sardinian brook newt habitat

This newt is found from 50 to 1,800 metres above sea level (6); 60 percent of all known localities lie beneath 600 metres (5). Newts are amphibious, living on both land and water. This species occupies mostly calm but also running waters during its aquatic period; varying from lakes to small and large rivers, and showing a preference for relatively calm sections of these waters (1). Stones on the riverbed are used as hiding places. The terrestrial habitat is always situated close to the water; here you also find the animals under stones, but additionally in the root zones of bushes and trees in wasteland, in the ‘macchia’ (Mediterranean scrub) or in woodland (5).

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Sardinian brook newt status

The Sardinian brook newt is classified as Endangered (EN) on the IUCN Red List (2). Listed in Appendix II of the Bern Convention (3), and Annexe IV of the EC Habitats Directive (4).

IUCN Red List species status – Endangered

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Sardinian brook newt threats

This European newt is highly endangered and only a few populations are known. In spite of intensive searches executed by various experienced herpetologists, only a handful of the historical localities could be verified (5), and it is feared that this species is the rarest and most threatened salamander in Europe (7).
There are three probable causes for the decline of E. platycephalus:
(a) Treatment of water bodies with DDT in the 1950's in the battle against malaria.
(b) The introduction of trout, which may be a threat to the salamanders themselves or compete with the salamanders for food.
(c) The reduction of water levels due to increasing demand for water from both the tourism and agricultural industries (5).

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Sardinian brook newt conservation

No specific conservation measurements are being taken for the Sardinian brook newt. However, the Habitats Directive strictly protects this species and protected habitats are being proposed to the EU-Commission by Italy (4). In addition, there is a captive breeding program to keep this species alive in captivity (8).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
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Find out more

For more information on salamanders:

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Authentication

This information has been supplied by Sergé Bogaerts (April, 2003).

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Glossary

Aestivation
Period of dormancy occurring in hot, dry periods, analogous to hibernation in winter.
Amphibious
Capable of living both on land and in water.
Cloaca
A common opening into which the reproductive, alimentary and urinary systems open.
Endemic
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
Genus
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Hibernate/ Hibernation
A winter survival strategy characteristic of some mammals in which an animal’s metabolic rate slows down and a state of deep sleep is attained. Whilst hibernating, animals survive on stored reserves of fat that they have accumulated in summer. In insects, the correct term for hibernation is ‘diapause’, a temporary pause in development and growth. Any stage of the lifecycle (eggs, larvae, pupae or adults) may enter diapause, which is typically associated with winter.
Larval
Of the stage in an animal’s lifecycle after it hatches from the egg. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but usually are unable to reproduce.
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References

  1. Arnold, E. N. & Ovenden, D. (2002) Collins field guide: Reptiles and Amphibians of Britain and Europe [2nd edn.]. Harper Collins.
  2. IUCN Red List (April, 2003)
    http://www.redlist.org
  3. Berne Convention (April, 2003)
    http://www.ecnc.nl
  4. Habitats Directive (Feb 2002)
    http://europa.eu.int/comm/environment/nature/hab-an2en.htm
  5. Rimmp, K. & Burkhard, T. (1999) Eurpoctus platycephalus (Gravenhorst, 1829) Sardischer Gebirgsmolch oder Hechtkopfmolch, pp285 - 3000 In: Boehme, W, Grossenbacher, K., Thiesmeier, B. Handbuch der Reptilien und Amphibien Europas, band 4/I:Schwanzlurche (Urodela). Aula-Verlag, Wiesbaden.
  6. Gasc, J-P. (1997) Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Bonn, Germany.
  7. Bogaerts, S. (April, 2003) Pers. comm.
  8. Molchregister (April, 2003)
    http://www.agurodela.de
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Image credit

Sardinian brook newt  
Sardinian brook newt

© Franco Andreone

Franco Andreone
Museo Regionale di Scienze Naturali
Via Giolitti 36
Torino
I-10123
Italy
f.andreone@libero.it
http://www.francoandreone.it

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