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Newts and European Salamanders: Salamandridae

Smooth Newt (triturus Vulgaris): Species Accounts

Physical characteristics: Smooth newts are slender and small, usually less than about 4 inches (11 centimeters) long. The tail makes up about one-half of the total length of the animal. In the landdwelling phase, smooth newts are brown or dark gray. The skin secretions of smooth newts taste bad to predators, but they are not poisonous, so they provide little protection. Smooth newts are eaten by birds and other animals.

Geographic range: Smooth newts live in Europe.

Habitat: Smooth newts live in woodlands, grasslands, clumps of trees and shrubs, rows of hedges or trees surrounding fields, and yards and gardens. These salamanders breed in small ponds.

During breeding season male and female newts look very different from each other. Males develop a high crest that runs along the back and tail. (Photograph by Adrian Davies. Bruce Coleman, Inc.)

Diet: Smooth newts eat small invertebrates and frog tadpoles.

Behavior and reproduction: Smooth newts return to ponds to breed in early spring and stay in the water for several months. During the breeding season male and female smooth newts look very different from each other. Males develop a high crest that runs along the back and tail. The crest has a jagged edge and, like the rest of the body, is marked with large, dark spots. Stripes of red and blue decorate the lower edge of the male's tail, just behind the greatly swollen, dark cloaca. The toes on the hind limbs of the male develop flaps of skin. These flaps help the male swim fast in pursuit of females.

Female smooth newts lay several hundred eggs during the breeding season. The eggs are laid one at a time, and the female carefully wraps each egg in a folded leaf. The eggs hatch into tiny meat-eating larvae, which grow and go through metamorphosis over the summer months to leave the water in late summer at a length of approximately 0.8 inches (2 centimeters). The young newts spend the next two or three years on land before they return to water to breed as mature adults.

Smooth newts and people: Smooth newts have no known importance to people.

Conservation status: Smooth newts are not considered threatened or endangered. ∎

Additional topics

Animal Life ResourceAmphibiansNewts and European Salamanders: Salamandridae - Physical Characteristics, Habitat, Behavior And Reproduction, Conservation Status, Smooth Newt (triturus Vulgaris): Species Accounts - GEOGRAPHIC RANGE, DIET, EUROPEAN SALAMANDERS NEWTS AND PEOPLE