Posted by: braddenvillage | February 28, 2010

Common Newts in Bradden

I was walking across the road between Barratt Row and Church Row when I spotted – spaced approximately 10 feet apart – two flattened newts in the road. Although badly crushed, I was surprised to see that both had bright orange belly’s to them, and wondered what exactly they were.

I looked them up and found out that they are  the Common, or Smooth Newt. (Triturus vulgaris).

These newts are around 7 – 11 cm long, including tail, with the males being slightly larger than the females.

They have an average lifespan of 6 years, although they can live for up to 20 years.

Physical Description

Females, and non-breeding males, are pale brown or olive green, often with two darker stripes on the back. Both sexes have the orange belly I spotted, although it is paler in females, which are covered in rounded black spots. They also have a pale throat with conspicuous spots.When on land they have velvety skin.

During mating season the males develop a continuous wavy crest that runs from their head to their tail, and their spots become more apparent. The males also have fringed toes.

Habitat

Outside of breeding season, they can be found in a variety of habitats  including deciduous woodland, wet heathland, bogs, marshes, gardens, parks and farmland.

They prefer standing water with plenty of weeds, such as lake margins, ponds and ditches, in which to breed.

Diet

On land they feed on insects, worms and slugs. They catch them by projecting their tongue to catch their prey.

In water they rely instead upon their minute teeth to grab onto their prey which include shrimps, water lice, insect larvae, water snails and frog tadpoles.

Larvae feed on aquatic invertebrates and crustaceans.

Behaviour

They are nocturnal and spend the day hiding under large stones or compost heaps.

Adult newts shed their skin as often as once a week.

They emerge from hibernation in February or March, when the temperature is above 0 degrees celsius and conditions are moist, and head for breeding sites. They return to land in late July.

Reproduction

A male smooth newt will seek out a female and waft glandular secretions towards her by fanning his tail in her direction. This stimulates the female to approach him. He drops a spermatophore, (small packet of sperm) near to the female. She positions herself over it, so that her cloaca picks it up.

A few days later the female starts laying 7 – 12 eggs a day and up to 400 eggs in total, usually on broad-leaved aquatic plants. Varying according to the temperature, the eggs hatch 2 – 3 weeks later.

The larvae have external gills, which absorb oxygen directly from the water. About 10 weeks later they have metamorphosed into air breathing juveniles.

They become sexually mature at 3 years of age.

Conservation status

Although they are protected in Britain under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, their numbers continue to decline across Europe. They are vulnerable to urbanisation, agricultural change and pollution of their habitat. They are not listed by the IUCN.

Smooth newt, common newt
Triturus vulgaris

A characteristic popping sound often accompanies a smooth newt rising for air.

Smooth newt, common newt
Triturus vulgaris

A characteristic popping sound often accompanies a smooth newt rising for air.

Smooth newt, common newt
Triturus vulgaris

A characteristic popping sound often accompanies a smooth newt rising for air.


Responses

  1. This explains why only a few tadpoles develop from the frogspawn in my pond. I often see the newts but presumed it was the fish who were eating the forming tadpoles!

  2. This is an interesting article, and I have long been saddened at the deaths of newts and other reptiles on Bradden’s road.

    In our garden ponds, although they are rather more styalised than natural, we have both Smooth newts and Great Crested Newts!

    How can you tell? Well, firstly, size matters. Great Crested are very large amphibians when full grown with a large adult growing up to 170 mm compared to the Smooth Newts size of 110mm. Great Crested have a bumpy, granular skin are very dark colouration. The males have dark colouring under the chin, whereas Smooth Newts have orange or paler colouration right up to the bottom lip.

    All newts are protected, and in fact a licence is required to handle them. They are also VERY vunerable to any change in their habitat. Please take care of these rare and unusual inhabitans.

    And so to another reptile, which may well send a few shudders around the village. Bradden has a good population of Grass Snakes!

    Although they are not always easy to find I see several every year. Sadly those on the roads, where they bask on warm days, are often squashed by passing cars. Last year this included a very large snake about half a mile towards Blackesly from the Slapton crossroads. I have also seen, and been watched, by another large snake in one of the gardens at the bottom of Willows Hill. Large? Well over 3 feet! However, Grass snakes are harmless. So, again, if you come across one enjoy the priveledge. The snake is more afraid of you than you are of it and will move away as soon as it becomes aware of your presence!


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