SPECIES SUMMARY PAGE

Triturus cristatus - Northern crested newt:

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Summary Information
Living Organisms / Animalia / Craniata / Amphibia / Caudata / Salamandridae / Triturus / Species
Alternative Names Warty newt, Great crested newt
Description General:
  • Relatively large dark newt (largest European species) with warty skin and distinctive colouration (B159, B160, B161).
  • Newts general: Head flattish; more or less rounded in front. Four digits on front legs, five on hind legs. Tail long and flat. (B161).

Length:

  • Male to 5.5 inches, Female to 6 inches (B161).
  • To 14cm, females occasionally to18cm (B159).
  • Tail: length less than head-body length (B160).
  • Relatively rapid growth continues for several years after sexual maturity is attained (B160).
  • Limbs of males are proportionately longer than limbs of females (B160).

Weight:

  • Males e.g. 7.6-10.6g, females 6.3-9.4g (B160).

Description:

  • Skin is warty (B161, B160).
  • Newts are able to change colour to some extent over several days to match their surroundings (B160).
  • Males: low ridge along back (B160).
  • Dorsal: dark brown/purplish-brown/greyish or black, sometimes with indistinct rounded black spots (B159, B160, B161).
  • Flanks have whitish/silver dots (B161, B160).
  • Sides of head: white/silver speckles/powdering (B160).
  • Limbs: white/silver speckles/powdering. Toes annular black and yellow markings (B160).
  • Throat: whitish with variable thick brown speckling (B160).
  • Abdomen orange/yellow/reddish with irregular brown/black/ dark grey spots/blotches (B159, B160, B161).
  • Tail: females, orange/yellow continued along lower edge. Males, white/silvery stripe on either side.
  • Eyes: golden/yellow.B160, B161

Breeding male:

  • Fine-toothed high crest from between the eyes just behind head to end of body and continuing less toothed from base to tip of tail.
  • Lower membrane on tail straight
  • Either side of the tail bears a whitish/bluish/silvery stripe.
  • (B159, B160, B161)
  • First differences from female, in dorsal ridge, increased tail depth and silver tail stripe visible in third year of life; full male features by the following spring (B160).

Breeding female:

  • Bit paler, no crest (B161)

N.B. Skin is swollen during breeding season, particularly in males and rougher at other times of year (B160).

Terrestrial phase:

  • Skin remains moist. Dorsal may appear black, contrasts with abdomen bright (B159; B160).

Subspecies: four different varieties with size, proportions, skin texture, colour pattern variable - B159, B160 British form is Triturus cristatus cristatus

  • Triturus cristatus cristatus: large, skin rough, flanks have white stippling. Abdomen yellow or orange with variable dark spots/blotches - in Scandinavia sometimes completely black.
  • Triturus cristatus carnifex (Italy, north to Alps, parts of Austria and northern Yugoslavia): Skin smoother, flank stippling absent or reduced, abdomen often orange, with large dark greyish spots, sometimes completely black. Female: often with yellow vertebral stripe
  • Triturus cristatus karelinii (Balkans, south-western Asia): Smooth skinned, flanks have little stippling, abdominal spots usually small. Sometimes bluish sheen. Throat pale, with dark spots.
  • Triturus cristatus dobrogicus (Danube plain, Danube Delta): Smallish, with coarse skin, small head. Flanks have little/no stippling, Dorsally brown or reddish. Abdomen red-orange, and black-brown spots may join to form two bands. Female often yellow vertebral stripe.
  • (B159)
Range and Habitat

Europe. Not southern and south-western France, Iberia, southern Greece, Ireland, Mediterranean islands. Eastwards to Caucasus and central Asia (B159, B160).

  • Triturus cristatus cristatus range includes Britain, France, Germany, Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, Russia to Lake Onega (Latitude 62); found on eastern slopes of Urals (B160).
  • British Isles: Wide but local distribution. Absent from Ireland and from west Scotland and North-east Scotland. More common in London, Home Counties (B160, B161).

Habitat:

  • Still or slow-flowing water preferred, with good growth of weed.
  • Reasonably deep ponds preferred
  • On land: near breeding pools, also in woods etc, in cracks in the earth, in thick grass and under stones/logs.
  • Sea level to 2000m. More montane in southern part of range.
  • (B159, B160, B161)
Further Information Activity:
  • Generally fairly aquatic, in some areas terrestrial except in breeding season (B159).
  • Good swimmers, can seize small fast-moving prey. Swim using tail.
  • On land crawl - can move quickly if necessary, but movements generally slower and more deliberate than in water.
  • Good sense of smell.
  • May produce faint squeak when handled.
  • More aquatic than other two species of newts in Britain; may be found in water all year in some ponds.
  • Mostly leave water by mid-July, some not until August.
  • Newts have the ability to regenerate amputated body parts. This ability decreases with age and is greater for posterior parts of the body (B160).

(B159, B160, B161)

Predators:

Newts general:

  • In water: fish, snakes (possibly not for great crested newt), water birds.
  • On land: hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, rats.
  • For tadpoles: fish, adult newts, also large water beetles and dragonfly larvae
  • N.B. this species is predated less often due to its skin secretions
  • (B160, B161)
  • Skin shedding: Periodically shed skin; cast skin may be found floating in water; rarely eaten by the newt. (B160, B161)
  • Longevity in aquarium: 25yrs (B161) in wild at least 13 years, in captivity males 25 years, females 27 years B160

BREEDING

Place:

  • Tend to return to same water for breeding. (B161) Move to water mainly on wet nights (B160)

Time:

  • Adults have returned to water by about middle of March; timing variable depending on temperature.
  • Males in breeding colours in two to three weeks.
  • First eggs early April, but egg laying may not end until mid-July
  • (B160, B161 ).

Age:

  • Sometimes by two years old, more often 3 years old, as late as four years in adverse conditions. (B160, B161)

Courtship: Male swims near female with crest erect, may nudge with snout, and swim around female. Male drops to pond bottom, deposits spermatophore, which is then picked up by vent of female. (B161) i.e. internal fertilisation (B160,) considerable lashing/waving/vibration of tail B160

Eggs: 200 to 300 total, laid in water, normally one at a time (occasionally 2-3 at one time), wrapped in a leaf by female using hind legs. (B160, B161)

Tadpole development:emerge about 21 days after eggs laid. initially nearly transparent, with gills and no legs. Abdomen greyish by 8 weeks. Front legs appear at about 6 weeks, before hind legs. Mid Aug/Sept: darker, with black spotting, gills absorbed, leave water. Metamorphosis complete in about 5 months Late-laid eggs overwinter in ponds. (B161) end of third week/fourth week, egg capsule digested, tadpole free B160 forelimbs develop first, hindlimbs later at about 6 weeks B160

Full development 5-6 months. Earliest young leaving water end August: dorsal dark brown with indistinct dark spotting, flanks dark with white powdering of spots, abdomen pale yellowish, with few small black spots, tail lower edge yellow. Skin rough. B160

HIBERNATION: Hibernate over winter until March, on land e.g under stones, planks, in heather roots. Occasionally in cellars overwinter (may not hibernate as warmer). October to March, on land. late tadpoles may overwinter in water.(B161) in holes in ground, under stones, under logs, in piles of leaves, in cellars (sometimes in large numbers) - in cracks/holes that are already present (do not make own burrows). in damp conditions B160 Date of waking variable, depends on temperature and weather conditions. late February/March in Britain B160 on land B160

FOOD:

  • Newt tadpoles: small pond life. water fleas, bloodworms, whiteworms, later tiny earthworms. Once metamorphosed: tiny insects required. (B161)
  • Adults: On land: worms, slugs, snails, insects. In water: aquatic larvae, small crustacea, molluscs, frogspawn, tadpoles of frogs and newts B160, B161

Feeding:

  • Detect food by sight and smell.
  • Mainly nocturnal (B160, B161).

Organisations (UK Contacts):

Electronic Library (further reading):

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General Legislation:

Individual techniques:

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