Smooth newt (Triturus vulgaris)

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Male smooth newt
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Smooth newt fact file

Smooth newt description

KingdomAnimalia
PhylumChordata
ClassAmphibia
OrderUrodela
FamilySalamandridae
GenusTriturus (1)

The smooth or common newt (Triturus vulgaris) is Britain's most widespread newt (4). Both males and females have greenish-brown upperparts, with a whitish belly and cheeks and an orange streak on the belly, which is more pronounced in males (5). The body is covered in black spots, which are larger and more obvious in males than females. Furthermore, during the breeding season males develop an impressive crest that extends from the head to the tail, as well as flaps of skin on the toes. In general, females are much more dull in colour and patterning than males (5). The smooth newt is often confused with palmate newts; the presence of spots on the whitish throat provides a sure-fire way of distinguishing a smooth newt from a palmate newt (which never have spots on the throat), although these spots may be less obvious in females (5). Juveniles are similar in appearance to females (3).

Also known as
Common newt.
Size
Adult length: up to 10 cm (2)
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Smooth newt biology

Smooth newts spend most of their lives on land; they overwinter under refuges such as logs or stones, and head for water bodies in spring in order to breed (5). Activity tends to peak at dusk and dawn, and most feeding takes place at night. The diet is composed mainly of aquatic invertebrates when in water, and worms, slugs, snails, beetles and flies on land (4).

Reproduction in the smooth newt is preceded by an elaborate courtship in which the male performs a display that involves him vibrating his tail against his body and occasionally slapping it against his side. If successful, the male will transfer a packet of sperm to the female by depositing it on the substrate; the female then absorbs it into her cloaca (5). Females lay up to 300 eggs between March and June at the rate of three to seven a day; each egg is wrapped individually in leaves (5). After 10 to 20 days, the eggs hatch and the tadpole larvae, which are known as 'efts' and have obvious feathery external gills, begin to swim around after a few days (5). These larvae usually undergo metamorphosis between July and September, and return to breed two to three years later (5).

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Smooth newt range

The smooth newt is, with the common frog (Rana temporaria), Britain's most widespread amphibian. It occurs throughout England, Scotland and Wales, but becomes less frequent to the north and west (5). Elsewhere, it is found throughout much of Europe, but absent from northern Scandinavia, parts of Russia and the Ukraine, and most of the southwest including Spain, Portugal, southern France and Italy (4). It is the only newt in Ireland (3). There are thought to be seven subspecies of the smooth newt in Europe, but the nominate race (Triturus vulgaris) occurs in Britain and Ireland (5).

You can view distribution information for this species at the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Smooth newt habitat

The smooth newt is often found in garden ponds, particularly where there are no fish, but lives in a range of habitats, including ditches and pools with a lot of submerged vegetation (5). Unlike many other amphibians, the habitat surrounding the water body does not seem to be very important (5).

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Smooth newt status

The smooth newt is classified as Least Concern (LC) on the IUCN Red List (1). The smooth newt is protected in Britain under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) with respect to sale only (2). Listed under Annex III of the Bern Convention (3).

IUCN Red List species status – Least Concern

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Smooth newt threats

The smooth newt is not currently threatened.

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Smooth newt conservation

It is illegal to sell smooth newts under the Wildlife and Countryside Act, 1981 (2).

View information on this species at the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
There may be further information about this species available via the National Biodiversity Network Gateway.
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Find out more

For more on the smooth newt and other amphibians and reptiles of the UK:

For more on amphibians of the world:

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Authentication

This information is awaiting authentication by a species expert, and will be updated as soon as possible. If you are able to help please contact:
arkive@wildscreen.org.uk

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Glossary

Cloaca
A common opening into which the reproductive, alimentary and urinary systems open.
Invertebrates
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones), echinoderms, and others.
Larvae
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.
Metamorphosis
An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
Subspecies
A different race of a species, which is geographically separated from other populations of that species.
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References

  1. IUCN Red List (May, 2011)
    http://www.iucnredlist.org/
  2. The Herpetological Conservation Trust: Smooth Newt fact sheet (January, 2003)
    http://www.herpconstrust.org.uk/
  3. The Environment Agency (1998) 'Look-up' chart of species and their legal status. Species and Habitats Handbook. The Environment Agency, Bristol.
  4. Amphibia Web - Smooth newt (January, 2003)
    http://elib.cs.berkeley.edu/aw/search/index.html
  5. Beebee, T & Griffiths, R. (2000) The New Naturalist: Amphibians and reptiles- a natural history of the British herpetofauna. Harper Collins Publishers, London.
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Image credit

Male smooth newt  
Male smooth newt

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