- 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).
- 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).
- Males e.g. 7.6-10.6g, females 6.3-9.4g (B160).
- Skin is warty (B161, B160).
- Newts are able to change colour to some extent over several days to match their
- 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
- 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
- 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.
- 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).
- Bit paler, no crest (B161)
N.B. Skin is swollen during breeding season, particularly in males and
rougher at other times of year (B160).
- 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
- 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
- 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
|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
- 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).
- 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.
- 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).
- In water: fish, snakes (possibly not for great crested newt), water
- On land: hedgehogs, stoats, weasels, rats.
- For tadpoles: fish, adult newts, also large water beetles and dragonfly
- N.B. this species is predated less often due to its skin secretions
- 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
- Tend to return to same water for breeding. (B161)
Move to water mainly on wet nights (B160)
- Adults have returned to water by about middle of March; timing variable depending on
- Males in breeding colours in two to three weeks.
- First eggs early April, but egg laying may not end until mid-July
- 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
- 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
- Detect food by sight and smell.
- Mainly nocturnal (B160, B161).
Organisations (UK Contacts):