Smooth Newt

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L. vulgaris ampelensis
L. vulgaris graecus
L. vulgaris kosswigi
L. vulgaris lantzi
L. vulgaris meridionalis
L. vulgaris schmidtlerorum
L. vulgaris vulgaris

Triturus vulgaris

The Smooth Newt, also known as the Common Newt, Lissotriton vulgaris (formerly Triturus vulgaris) is the most common newt species of the Lissotriton genus of amphibians. L. vulgaris is found throughout Europe except the far north, areas of Southern France, and the Iberian peninsula.[2]

Contents

Description

Outside the breeding season, male and female Smooth Newts are hard to distinguish - both sexes are of similar size (roughly 10cm head to tail length), and a similar pale brown to yellow colouration. Their main visible differences are two - the male newt has a single black line running down the centre of the spine, the females have two parallel lines either side of the centre. On closer inspection, one can clearly see that the male's cloaca is very distended, whilst the female's is nearly invisible.

During the breeding season, one can easily distinguish the sexes - the male is far darker than the female, with a tall wavy and transparent crest along the spine and tail, with dark spots covering the rest of the body, including the stomach area, which is a far more vivid pink or orange than it is in winter and autumn. The female also develops spots, but not on the stomach area, which is paler than the males, and theirs are generally smaller. The female does not develop crests. Smooth Newts have a paddle-like tail for increased swimming speed.

The nominal subspecies, L. v. vulgaris, is found in the United Kingdom and Ireland.


Females and non-breeding males are pale brown or olive green, often with two darker stripes on the back. Both sexes have an orange belly, although it is paler in females, which is covered in rounded black spots. They also have a pale throat with conspicuous spots. This helps to distinguish them from palmate newts that have pale unspotted throats, and with which they are often confused. When on land they have velvety skin. During the breeding season, male smooth newts develop a continuous wavy (rather than jagged) crest that runs from their head to their tail, and their spotted markings become more apparent. They are also distinguishable from females by their fringed toes.

Life cycle

Adult Smooth Newts emerge from hibernation on land from late February to May, and head to fresh water to breed. They favour ponds and shallow lakesides over running water. At this time both sexes of newt become more strikingly and colourfully marked, with vivid spots and orange bellies. The male also develops a wavy crest along the back and tail - the sexes are much easier to differentiate during the breeding season.

During courtship the male newt "displays" for his prospective mate by vibrating his tail in front of the female in a distinctive fashion. The male then deposits a sperm-containing capsule, known as a spermatophore, in front of his mate, who manoeuvres herself into a position whereby she can pick up the capsule with her cloaca - fertilization occurring inside the female. The female, thus fertilized, after a few days starts to lay eggs individually, usually under aquatic plant leaves at a rate of 7 to 12 eggs per day. Altogether, a total of 400 eggs may be produced over the season.

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