Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)

photo by John Beniston

Common Name: Smooth Newt
Scientific Name: Lissotriton vulgaris
Family: Salamandridae
Locations: Albania, Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Kazakhstan, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Macedonia, Moldova, Montenegro, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine, and United Kingdom
Introduced Locations Australia
Size: 3.9 inches (10 cm)

The Smooth Newt is one of the most common amphibians found throughout temperate, forest areas in Europe. They are mostly terrestrial, only staying in water for extended periods of time during breeding season. They are also nocturnal, spending their days under logs and rocks. The newts do come out during rains during the day.

The Smooth Newt reproduces after the newt wake up from hibernation. The males and females move to ponds to breed. The males will grow out a wavy crest on their back to impress the females. The male will do a courtship dance to attract females. The males will deposit a sperm packet in the water and will lead a female over it during the courtship. The female will pick it up with her cloaca and bring it inside her to fertilize her eggs. A few days layer, the female will lay her eggs, as many as 300. Eggs hatch a few weeks later and larvae will appear. The larvae take a few months to complete their metamorphism, but some individuals may take over a year. These individuals will then have to survive in the water over winter.

In Australia, the Smooth Newt has established populations in the wild. It is believed the newts were released into the wild from a pet owner who didn’t want them anymore. Never do that please. Currently, it is not known if the newt is causing any serious environmental problems so the Australian Government isn’t actively trying to prevent their spread or eliminate them.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Great Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus)

Great Crested Newt
photo by Rainer Theuer
least concern

Common Name: Northern Crested Newt, Great Crested Newt, and Warty Newt
Scientific Name: Triturus cristatus
Family: Salamandridae
Locations: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom
Size: 6 inches (15.24 cm)

The Great Crested Newt is named after the crested that males grow during breeding season. The breeding season takes place during the spring to summer when the newts wake up from their hibernation. The newts move back to the ponds where they hatched to breed. The males will perform courtship rituals to try to attract a female to mate with. Females lay around 200 eggs during a breeding season. After breeding, the newts move back to land and the males lose their crests. They are often found under rocks and logs during this time.

photo by Maciej Bonk

While the Great Crested Newt is listed as Least Concern by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List, their populations are declining fast. The European Union has listed them as the protected species to help save them. The main reason for their decline is believed to be habitat loss due to development for urban areas.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Red-bellied Newt (Taricha rivularis)

Red Bellied Newt
photo by Ghegenbart
least concern

Common Name: Red-bellied Newt
Scientific Name: Taricha rivularis
Family: Salamandridae
Location: United States – California
Snout to Vent Size: 2.75 – 3.5 inches (70 – 89 mm)
Snout to Tail Size:  5.5 – 7.5 inches (140 – 190 mm) 

The Red-bellied Newt is found only in Sonoma, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties of California. They are found in coastal redwood forests with rocky, cold, moderate to fast streams. The newt is mainly terrestrial until it comes to breeding, then they transform to become more aquatic with loose skin and a more flatter, wider tail. The Red-bellied Newt breeds in the same or close spot every year. After mating, females usually lay around 10 eggs under a rock or stone. The eggs take around 20-30 days to hatch and then undergo metamorphose in four months.

The Red-bellied Newt has a red belly to defend itself. When threatened by a predator, the newt will extend its limbs to the side to show the predator that they are poisonous. Sometimes, they will even kinda stand on two legs, lifting his front limbs and belly off the ground. They have enough poison in them to kill a human adult.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Oriental Fire-bellied Newt (Cynops orientalis)

Common Name: Oriental Fire-bellied Newt
Scientific Name: Cynops orientalis
Family: Salamandridae
Location: China
Size: 2 – 4 inches (6 – 10 cm)

The Oriental Fire-bellied Newt is commonly found in ditches, ponds, and rice terraces in east Central China. Because the Oriental Fire-bellied Newts are common, they are harvested for the pet trade, research, and traditional Chinese medicine. The Chinese Fire-bellied Newt was  one of the most common newts in the pet trade but there is a problem.

The Chinese Fire-bellied Newt is a host for Batrachochytrium salamandrivorans (Bsal), a fungal pathogen that has been wiping out salamander populations in Europe.  Because of the fear of introducing the disease to the US, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service placed the Chinese Fire-bellied Newt and other species of salamanders on the injurious wildlife under the Lacey Act. These species can not be imported into the US without permits now. Originally,  people were not even allowed to ship the newts and salamanders across state lines. People in the hobby pet trade were not happy about this. So, they fought the USFWS in court and won, making them able to move the salamanders and newts across state lines.

Other Amphibian of the Week

Iberian Ribbed Newt (Pleurodeles waltl)

Iberian Ribbed Newt
photo by wikiuser Pengo

Common Name: Iberian Ribbed Newt, Spanish Ribbed Newt, or Sharp-ribbed Salamander
Scientific Name: Pleurodeles waltl
Family: Salamandridae
Location: Morocco, Portugal, and Spain
Size: 1 foot (31.2 cm)

The Iberian Ribbed Newt lives in permeant and semi-permanent bodies of water such as ponds, lakes, ditches, and streams. They rarely leave the water, only leaving once the ponds start to dry up. Then, they take shelter under rocks or logs in hopes of staying moist.

The mating season varies depending on location. The mating takes place in the water. First, the male grasps the female with both hands from underneath her. Next, he releases one hand and positions himself in front of her. Then, he makes a few turns around her head and he then releases his sperm. Finally, he turns the female and she then picks it up with her cloaca. Two days later, she starts laying her eggs. Over the course of 2 – 3 days, the female lays between 150 – 1500 eggs. Neither parent provides any care for the offspring.

The Iberian Ribbed Newt is a fascinating species of newt. They have the ability to puncture their ribs out of their body with little damage to themselves. The newts do this to protect themselves from attacks from predators. They are able to survive this damage because of their regenerative abilities. Also, They regrow their limbs if they are list. The newt has also been to space at least six times. Apparently, they make a good model organism, especially in space.

Iberian Ribbed Newt
photo by Henk Wallays

Iberian Ribbed Newt Conservation

The Iberian Ribbed Newt lost large chunks of their habitat for urban development and agriculture. Additionally, they face the thread of invasive fish and crayfish that feed on their eggs. Therefore, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List classifies the newt as Near Threatened with Extinction.