Smooth newt, common newt
A characteristic popping sound often accompanies a smooth newt rising for air.
Nine. The subspecies found in the UK is T.v. vulgaris.
Average lifespan is 6 years, although it is possible for a lifespan of 20 years to be attained.
Body length and tail: 7-11cm. Males are slightly larger than females.
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.
They are one of the commonest amphibians in Europe, but are absent from Iberia, southern France, southern Italy and most Mediterranean islands. They are also found in Russia and western Asia.
Smooth newts can be found in a variety of habitats outside the breeding season, inhabiting deciduous woodland, wet heathland, bogs, marshes, gardens, parks and farmland. They prefer standing water with plenty of weeds, such as lake margins, ponds and ditches, in which to breed.
When on land smooth newts tend to feed on insects, worms and slugs by projecting their tongues to catch prey. They do not use their tongues to catch prey in water, relying instead on their minute teeth to grab onto the prey. Shrimps, water lice, insect larvae, water snails and frog tadpoles form their diet in the water. They are free-swimming and tend to hunt for prey near the surface of the water. Newt larvae feed on aquatic invertebrates and crustaceans. Smooth newts have been observed to become excited and aggressive at the site of other newts feeding.
They are nocturnal and spend the day hiding under large stones or compost heaps. Adult newts shed their skin as often as once a week. They emerge from hibernation in February or March, when the temperature is above 0 degrees Celsius and conditions are moist, and head for the breeding sites. They return to land in late July. They are one of the most terrestrial of the newts in Europe. As the grow, smooth newts shed their skin once a week.
A male smooth newt will seek out a female and waft glandular secretions towards her by fanning his tail in her direction. This stimulates the female to approach him. He drops a spermatophore (small packet of sperm) near to the female. She positions herself over the spermatophore so that her cloaca picks it up. A few days later the female starts to lay 7 to 12 eggs a day, laying up to 400 eggs in total, usually on broad-leaved aquatic plants. Varying according to temperature, the eggs hatch 2-3 weeks later. The larvae have external gills, which absorb oxygen directly from the water. About 10 weeks later they have metamorphosed into air-breathing juveniles. They become sexually mature at 3 years of age.
Although they are protected in Britain under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, their numbers continue to decline across Europe. They are vulnerable to urbanisation, agricultural change and pollution of their habitat. They are not listed by the IUCN.
All of the newt species found in the UK are members of the Triturus genus, and they are sometimes known as tritons.
The smooth newt is the commonest species of newt in the UK.