Our land is inhabited by various amphibians. One of the most interesting representatives of this class of animals is the common newt. This is a very small creature, which the townsfolk often confuse with a toad and lizards. However, these are completely different types of amphibians, having not so many common features. You can learn more about common newts, their external and behavioral features in this publication.
Origin of the species and description
Common newts are representatives of a large class of animals: “Amphibians”. This is a species of newts from the genus of small newts, which is considered one of the most numerous and widespread on the planet. In Latin, the name of the animal sounds like “Lissotriton vulgaris”. For the first time this type of animal was noticed and described by Carl Linnaeus, a famous Swedish naturalist. And it happened back in 1758. Newts, including ordinary ones, got their name in honor of the god Triton. This deity is usually depicted riding a dolphin, slightly immersed in the waves of the sea.
Video: Common newt
How to recognize and distinguish an ordinary newt from other amphibians? This can be done in several ways. The common newt is very small. Its length rarely exceeds ten centimeters. At the same time, ten centimeters more than half is occupied by the tail. The skin of such a newt is slightly grainy or completely smooth, olive-green or brown in color with small dark spots. This species differs from its closest relatives of newts by the presence of longitudinal stripes on the head of a dark color, which are located on the sides.
Interesting fact: The common newt, despite its rather cute appearance and small size, is dangerous for many animals. The skin of this amphibian releases a deadly poison. The substance does not pose a threat to humans, but for many warm-blooded animals it can be fatal. Such a poison almost instantly eliminates all platelets in the blood, which leads to cardiac arrest.
The common newt is a tiny, not capricious and unpretentious creature. It is very popular with aquarists, so it is often kept at home. Keeping such an animal at home is not difficult at all. The main task of a person is to create and maintain the right conditions: lighting, soil, filling and size of the terrarium, nutrition. By providing the right conditions, a person can have a cute pet that will live for at least twenty years.
Appearance and Features
The common newt has a number of characteristic external features:
- small dimensions. The body length of this animal does not exceed ten centimeters – males are always slightly larger than females. Ten centimeters — this is with a tail that is at least half the total length;
- smooth, less often – slightly granular skin. Skin color can be brown, olive. The belly is always lighter than the back: yellow or light orange. There are dark spots on the body, and dark stripes on the sides on the head;
- well-developed limbs. The newt has four legs that are the same length. The front pair of paws has three or four toes, and the back pair has five. The paws allow this animal to swim well, to move along the bottom of the reservoir without any problems. On land, common newts run a little clumsily;
- poor eyesight, but excellent sense of smell. Adults can recognize their prey from another two hundred meters;
- conical teeth. They are located in the sky in two parallel rows. The teeth diverge slightly at a slight angle. This arrangement of teeth helps the animal tightly hold the victim in the mouth.
Interesting fact: Common newts have a unique feature – they can fully restore their internal organs, eyes or lost limbs.
Where does the common newt live?
For life, an ordinary newt is suitable for mixed, deciduous forests. These animals live, breed in stagnant or slow water bodies. On land, they hide in bushes, can be found in parks, gardens, forest belts. Open areas are avoided. Common newt — a very common creature. It lives almost everywhere. The only exceptions are some territories: the Crimea, the south of France, Portugal, Antarctica, Spain. The natural habitat depends on the subspecies of the common newt.
There are seven subspecies:
- Arechesky. Lives in Greece, Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria;
- Schmidtler’s Triton. Can only be found in western Turkey;
- Ampelny. It is also called grape. Differs in a low dorsal crest, lives in the north-west of Romania;
- Cosswig’s newt. He is also a resident of Turkey. You can meet such an animal on the southwest coast;
- Lissotriton vulgaris vulgaris. This is the nominative. Is the most common. Its natural habitat extends from Ireland to western Siberia. The differences of such an animal are a high dorsal crest, a pointed tip of the tail;
- Southern common newt. Its natural habitat is Slovenia, northern Italy, southern France;
- Triton Lanza. Lives in southern Russia, northern Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia.
Now you know where the common newt lives, let’s see what it eats.
What does the common newt eat?
Common newts are small but very agile creatures. They are excellent swimmers, their legs are movable, have fingers, which allows them to quickly move under the water column at the bottom of the reservoir without any problems. These kids almost always hunt successfully. They can keep up with fast prey, and a keen sense of smell allows you to smell it even hundreds of meters away. In addition, common newts have a strong mouth with two rows of teeth. With its help, the animal easily holds prey.
Interesting fact: It is quite difficult to distinguish a male from a female common newt. In normal times, such a difference is only the dimensions of the animal. Males are slightly larger than females, but even this is a subtle fact. However, during the mating season, gender differences are more pronounced. At this time, a crest appears on the back of the males.
The diet of the common newt includes:
- insect larvae and other invertebrates;
- fish eggs;
- slugs and earthworms;
- beetle larvae;
- armor mites;
The most interesting thing is that newts have a much stronger appetite in water. On land, they eat very little. At the same time, in water, their stomach is almost ninety percent filled with water, and on land – only sixty-five percent. At home, the diet of animals is slightly different. Such amphibians are fed with earthworms, bloodworms, aquarium shrimps.
However, you need to be very careful in keeping and feeding ordinary newts. In particular, sand or very small pebbles should not be placed in the terrarium. While eating, the animal can swallow a grain of sand, and then there is a very high probability that the newt will die from intestinal obstruction.
Character and Lifestyle Features
Adult common newts lead both aquatic and terrestrial lifestyles. They have gills and lungs, which makes them comfortable on land and in water. This natural property helps these animals survive during a drought when the reservoir dries up. In general, the lifestyle of an ordinary newt can be divided into two stages: winter, summer. In winter, the activity of the salamander representative becomes very small. Tritons winter on land, looking for shelter in advance.
Even a simple pile of leaves is suitable as a refuge for an ordinary newt. But the best option is an abandoned hole. Quite often, newts winter together with their relatives. Overwintering in a group increases the chances of animals to survive. There can be more than thirty adults in a group. When the ambient temperature drops below zero, newts freeze, completely stop moving.
Interesting fact: Few people know that common newts are of great benefit to people. These small creatures destroy a large number of mosquitoes. They eat them both as larvae and as adults.
In spring, even at temperatures below ten degrees Celsius, newts wake up after freezing and return to the water. The water at this time is quite cold, but the newts tolerate this temperature well. In the summer, common newts are active at night. They do not like bright light, they are poorly adapted to the heat. During the day, you can see such an animal only during the rain. Most often, newts live in small flocks, each of which has about three to four adults.
Social structure and reproduction
The beginning of the mating season coincides with the moment of leaving winter shelters. As soon as ordinary newts move back into the water in the spring, active mating games immediately begin. In reservoirs, the male and female gradually approach each other, swim together. At this time, the representative of the stronger sex tries to hit his chosen one harder with his tail. Some time after such games, the animals mate.
The breeding season is long. During this time, the female newt manages to lay a huge number of eggs. Sometimes their number is in the hundreds and can reach seven hundred pieces. Each laid testicle is carefully masked by the female. She places it on the leaf of a plant that is submerged in water and folds it over. In this way, she manages to create a kind of wallet. In it, future offspring are reliably protected, because the folded sheet is held tightly due to the sticky surface of the egg.
The process of maturation of the testicles stops only after fifteen days. Then larvae with a tail appear from them. The length of the larva is approximately seven millimeters. The first day of its life, the larva does not eat and even tries not to appear in open spaces. Only on the second day does a mouth gap erupt, allowing her to start eating. After about three weeks, the larva develops legs, and after two and a half months, the larva turns into an adult common newt.
An interesting fact: In areas with a warm climate, by autumn, the larvae fully acquire the appearance of adults. In the north of their natural habitat, the larvae do not have time to go through all stages of development, so they still hibernate with external gills.
Natural enemies of common newts
Common newts are small and almost defenseless creatures. They have the highest percentage of survival only in captivity. At home, these animals can easily reach twenty-eight years. In the wild, finding an adult of this age is almost impossible. The average life expectancy in captivity for newts is only fourteen years. One of the reasons for such a big difference is the presence of a huge number of natural enemies.
The greatest number of enemies of newts lies in wait in the water. This is not surprising, because these amphibians spend a lot of time in water bodies. Almost all species of animals living in water bodies are not averse to eating common newts.
The worst enemies include:
- closest relatives. Despite being directly related, larger newts eat smaller ones. For example, crested newts are often seen in this;
- frogs. Amphibians are excellent hunters. For them, newts are very easy prey;
- fish. Perch, pike, carp and many other fish attack adult amphibians or feast on their larvae;
- snakes and vipers. They deftly catch visually impaired newts and swallow them almost whole;
- birds and some animals living on land. Common newts rarely appear on the ground. But if they go out there, they become easy prey for some animals and birds, because newts are very clumsy on the ground. They are not averse to eating water voles, gray herons, mallards.
However, not all common newts are defenseless. Many subspecies have very toxic skin. For example, the yellow-bellied newt contains enough venom on its skin to kill twenty-five thousand small rodents.
Population and species status
Common newts have a high fertility rate. In one mating season, females are able to lay about seven hundred eggs. In most areas of natural habitat, this property allows animals to maintain a stable population level. However, even high fecundity in some areas could not save the situation, and today in many countries the population of the common newt has declined significantly.
What is the reason for the sharp decline in the number of these amphibians?
There are several main :
- short lifespan. In captivity, the newt lives no more than fourteen years. There are many reasons for this. The most significant are the lack of food, droughts and vulnerability to natural enemies. Common newts are very small, have poor health, poor eyesight, and are very clumsy on land. All this makes them easy prey;
- pollution of water bodies. Dirty water, a huge amount of waste – all this deprives animals of their homes and food;
- geographical and climatic changes in some areas of their natural habitat. Many reservoirs are drained and gradually disappear. Climate change is also negatively affecting the population of newts. These animals are poorly adapted to the heat.
Common Newts Conservation
The common newt is a small but rather useful creature. It helps to control the number of mosquitoes. These amphibians eat mosquitoes, including very dangerous for humans – malaria. To date, the population of these useful animals has been greatly reduced, especially in certain areas. According to scientists, many factors influenced this, but the main ones are the total pollution of water bodies and the environment.
Due to a sharp decrease in the number of common newts, they were included in the Red Books of Azerbaijan and Russia. In Switzerland, the UK, this species is recognized as rare. In Switzerland, the number of newts has decreased due to massive drainage of reservoirs. About seventy percent of water bodies across the country have been drained, according to official figures. This led to the fact that the number of such amphibians was reduced by four times. And there was such a sharp decline in the number of animals in a very short period of time, which seriously worried the scientists.
Also, the common newt is currently under the protection of the Berne Convention. Newts are quite prolific amphibians. To preserve and restore their population, it is necessary to protect existing reservoirs, protect the vegetation around them and improve the ecological situation in problem areas.
The common newt is one of the smallest members of its family. This is a pretty cute animal, which is endowed with a unique ability to live both in water and on land. Tritons of this species are of great benefit to humans, destroying dangerous mosquitoes and their larvae. Today, common newts need special attention from people, because their numbers are declining more and more every year.