Northern Crested Newt, Triturus cristatus

The Northern Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus), known also as the Great Crested Newt or Warty Newt, is a newt belonging to the family Salamandridae found across Europe and parts of Asia.

Its range extends from Great Britain and Brittany in the west across much of Europe north of the Alps and the Black Sea. It’s the biggest and least common of the three newts found in the British Isles and is one of only four amphibians protected by the UK Biodiversity Action Plan.

The newts have dark grey colored backs and flanks, and are covered with darker colored spots so they seem almost black. Their undersides are either yellow or orange and are covered in large black blotches which have a unique pattern in each individual.

The males can be distinguished from the females by the presence of a jagged crest in the breeding season. This crest runs along their backs, then a separate smoother-edged crest runs above and below their tails. They also have a silver grey colored stripe that runs along their tail.

The females lack the crest but have a yellow orange stripe along the lower edge of their tails and frequently feature a marked orange stripe along the top of their lower backs and tails.

They normally live on land, but breed in ponds and pools. Breeding is much like that of other newts. After performing a courtship display, the male deposits spermatophore in the path of the female. He then moves sideways in front of her to gently encourage her into a position where the spermatophore will be pressed against and picked up by her cloaca. The male lays two or three eggs a day between March and mid-July until 200 to 300 eggs have been laid. The eggs are laid on submerged aquatic plants, each carefully wrapped in leaf.

The larvae hatch after about three weeks and then live in the ponds as aquatic predators. They are vulnerable to fish predation, and bodies of water containing fish are rarely used to breeding.

After metamorphosis they develop into air-breathing individuals at about four months old. They live terrestrial lives until they are old enough to breed, which is about two or three years. They may disperse at this age as far as .5 miles.

Both the juvenile newts and the adults live in terrestrial habitats with dense cover such as rough grass, woodland, and scrub, normally within 200 miles of the breeding pond. They rest during the day under rocks, logs, or some other shelter.

Larval newts normally feed on tadpoles, worms, insects, and insect larvae. The adults hunt in ponds for other newts, tadpoles, young froglets, insect larvae, worms, and water snails. Additionally, they hunt on land for worms, insects, and other invertebrates.

They hibernate through October to March under logs and stones or in the mud at the bottom of their breeding ponds. The newts usually return to the same breeding site each year and can live as long as 27 years although 10 years is the norm.

Image Caption: The Crested Newt (Triturus cristatus); male specimen in “mating dress” under water. Credit: Rainer Theuer/Wikipedia