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Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)

The Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus) AKA the Northern Crested Newt or Warty Newt is a nationally important species protected under UK & European legislation. In Worcestershire and surrounding counties it is wide spread where suitable habitat occurs.

Great Crested Newts return to their ponds in February-March and leave in July – August. They are nocturnal animals but mostly active in the crepuscular period.

At up to 140 -170mm it is the largest of our three newt species, it’s long-slender body is granular in appearance and the dorsal surface dark brown to near black in colour marked with black spots and heavy white stippling along the flanks and limbs.  The ventral surface is yellow-orange marked with irregular black blotches that form a unique ‘fingerprint’ allowing the individual identification of adults. The throat is dark and marked with heavy white stippling. The toe tips are yellow. In females the yellow-orange of the ventral surface continues down the underside of the tail, and in lightly coloured specimens a light dorsal stripe may be visible.

During the breeding period males develop a distinctive tall serrated crest that breaks at the tail, and the tail is marked with a silver-white flash.

Juvenile Great Crested Newts resemble females and reach maturity at 2-4 years of age.

Eggs of the Great Crested Newt are laid singularly folded in to leaves of aquatic vegetation. Eggs are large and pale yellow in colour.. They can number 200 from a single female but suffer from a genetic anomaly that causes a 50% mortality at the tail bud stage of development.

Great Crested Newt larvae are distinctive from our other newt species by their larger size, broad head, long toes, and large tail fin.

Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

The Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris vulgaris) is Worcestershire’s most common newt occurring in a wide range of habitats across the entire county including garden ponds.

Smooth Newts return to their ponds in February – March and typically stay there till June – July although it’s not unusual to see males remaining in ponds through to August – September. They are a crepuscular species most active at dawn and dusk.

The dorsal skin is smooth and sandy olive in colour; females being uniform while males carry large black spots. The ventral surface is a pale cream with a streak of yellow-orange and heavily marked with grey-black spotting. In females the yellow-orange streak continues down the underside of the tail. The throat is also pale cream and spotted. Reaching up to 100mm it is slightly larger than the similar looking Palmate Newt.

When in breeding condition males develop a wavy crest that starts at the back of the head and extends down the length of the body and tail. The tail is adorned by red and blue flash markings and slight webbing forms on the hind feet though not to the extent of that seen in the Palmate Newt.

Juvenile Smooth Newts can be distinguished from Palmate Newts by the light yellow-orange dorsal stripe that starts at the neck and fades away before reaching the tail.

Eggs of the Smooth Newt are laid singularly on aquatic vegetation, sometimes folded in to leaves but just as frequently deposited in the tips of oxygenating plants such as Hornwort. Eggs are a buff cream in colour and indistinguishable from those of the Palmate Newt. They can number 200-300 from a single female.

Smooth Newt larvae attain slightly larger sizes and typically metamorphose later than those of the Palmate Newt but in the field these traits are impossible to distinguish.

Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus)

The Palmate Newt (Lissotriton helveticus helveticus) is the least-common of Worcestershire’s newts occurring mostly in the counties borders where it shows a preference for soft, slightly acidic, water.

Palmate Newts return to their ponds in February – March and typically stay there till June – July although it’s not unusual to see them in ponds through to September. They are a crepuscular species most active at dawn and dusk.

The dorsal skin is smooth and olive to light brown in colour, sometimes speckled with small dark spots. The ventral surface is yellow to pale orange sometimes with the same dark speckles that mark the flanks, and the throat is a pale pink which unlike the Smooth Newt is not spotted. Reaching a maximum length of 95mm it is the smallest of Worcestershire’s newts.

Outside of breeding season both sexes appear similar except for the darker and more bulbous cloaca of the males however when in breeding condition males develop dark spots on their flanks, and a pale orange flash to the tail,  a narrow eye stripe each side of the head, a pair of dorsal-lateral ridges give the body a squarish appearance, and a very low non-toothed dorsal crest which extends down the tail.  The most distinguishable features however are their heavily webbed hind feet & an extremely fine filament forming the tip of their tail.

Juvenile Palmate Newts can be distinguished from Smooth Newts by the light yellow-orange dorsal stripe that starts at the neck and extends down to the tail.

Eggs of the Palmate Newt are laid singularly on aquatic vegetation, sometimes folded in to leaves but just as frequently deposited in the tips of oxygenating plants such as Hornwort. Eggs are creamy buff in colour and indistinguishable from those of the Smooth Newt. They can number 200 -300 from a single female.

Palmate Newt larvae attain slightly smaller sizes and typically metamorphose earlier than those of the Smooth Newt but in the field these traits are impossible to distinguish.

Welcome to W.R.A.G.

Worcestershire Reptile & Amphibian Group is a voluntary organization dedicated to the promotion and conservation of Amphibians, Reptiles and their associated habitats within Worcestershire.

W.R.A.G. is a member of the ARG UK network and we work closely with local and national conservation groups to achieve our aims.

We are currently making a come back after an extended hibernation and would love to hear from anyone in the local area with a passion for Reptiles & Amphibians, if that’s you or someone you know please get in touch via e-mail worcsarg@googlemail.com or join our Facebook Group