Great Crested Newt Fact File
The great crested newt is noticeable for the large crest of jagged skin which develops on the back of the male. Males also have a white stripe running from mid way down the tail to its base. Their warty skin is coloured dark brown or black on top. Some of the warts have a white tip giving them a spotty appearance. The underside is orange with black spots. The pattern of spots on the underside is unique to each newt similar to a human fingerprint.
Their long tail trails behind the body and looks like a paddle.
They are the largest newt species found in Northern Europe. They measure between 10 and 14cm (4-5.5in) long.
The great crested newt is a carnivore. Their diet is made up of worms, slugs, insects, mollusks and tadpoles.
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Europe is the native home of the great crested newt. Here they can be found across a large part of the continent throughout the countries of Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Czechia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russia, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.
They can be found in a range of forests, glades, bushland, woodlands, marshes, pastures, parks and gardens. Breeding takes place in water and they spend their time near water. They are not particularly adaptable to habitat disturbance.
A great crested newt larva
Breeding begins in May when the great crested newts will enter the breeding ponds. For the few months of the breeding season they will spend most of their time in the water.
Males undertake an elaborate underwater dance in an attempt to attract a female. This display involves them standing on their legs, arching the back and waving their tail. The conclusion of the display is the transfer of a spermatophore from the male to the female.
Following this the female will begin to lay the eggs. A clutch may consist of 70-600 eggs. These are laid either singly or in a chain of two or three in to a leaf. The eggs are like jelly and coloured white with a yellow centre.
Half of the eggs will fail to hatch. The rest will hatch after 12-20 days. Larva can be recognized against toad and frog tadpoles due to the feathery gills coming off their head. They have mottled colouring and a tiny filament on their tail.
As tadpoles they begin by feeding on microcrustaceans and then over time move on to plankton.
Metamorphosis begins two months after hatching with the front legs developing first and the back legs second. The tadpoles will be 50-90mm (2-3.5in) long when they begin their metamorphosis.
Around August their gills have been fully absorbed and they begin to leave the water and transition to a terrestrial lifestyle.
Great crested newts spend much of winter resting under rocks or in a compost heap. This is not a hibernation and if there is mild weather they will wake up and may forage in small amounts. This period of rest may last from October to March.
They are typically active at night and spend the day at the bottom of a water course or under vegetation. Most of their time is spent near water as they need to keep their skin moist.
Predators and Threats
There are many predators of the great crested newt including foxes, badgers, rats, hedgehogs and birds.
To prevent predation they can secrete a foul smelling substance which has a milky appearance from glands on the skin.
Humans have affected their population through reducing the water table which reduces their habitat, habitat destruction, pollution, in-filling ponds for development and introducing fish to the ponds they inhabit.
They may also be captured in small amounts for the pet trade.
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The great crested newt is also known as the ‘warty newt.’
Great crested newts have the ability to regrow limbs which they may lose throughout their life.
By Piet Spaans – Own work, CC BY-SA 2.5, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=1700514
By Magnefl – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=84473314
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