Smooth Newt (Lissotriton vulgaris)
Smooth Newts look very similar to Palmate Newts but are more widespread; they’re found throughout Britain and Ireland. Smooth Newts cannot tolerate as dry conditions as Palmate Newts. On land, their skin takes on a velvety appearance and they are sometimes mistaken for lizards. Like Common Frogs they are usually quite quick to colonise garden ponds.
|Identification||Adults up to 10 cm in length. Skin is varying shades of grey or brown. Males develop a wavy crest along the back during the breeding season. Belly yellow or orange, usually with black spots and/or blotches. Throat is spotted.|
|Distribution||Native species. Common and widespread throughout the UK including Ireland: the UK’s most widespread newt species. Found throughout south and central Europe.|
|Ecology||Most active at dusk and dawn. Feed on a wide variety of invertebrates. Very difficult to distinguish Smooth Newt eggs from Palmate Newt eggs. Greyish-brown or dirty white eggs surrounded by a transparent jelly capsule that is about 3 mm across. Eggs deposited individually on leaves of aquatic plants. Very difficult to distinguish Smooth Newt larvae (tadpoles) from Palmate Newt larvae. Light beige or brown, sometimes with fine black speckling. Larvae reach 30 – 40mm before metamorphosis.|
|Predators and other threats||Predators include fish, Grass Snakes, ducks and kingfishers. Larvae eaten by water beetles, dragonfly nymphs, fish and adult newts. Threatened by loss of habitat and reduced habitat connectivity.|
A year in the life…Spring
Adult newts emerge from their overwintering sites in early spring and head to a pond to breed. Males perform an elaborate courtship dance before the eggs are laid. Individual eggs are laid and wrapped up in the leaves of pond plants. Depending on local weather conditions, two to four weeks later larvae (sometimes called newt tadpoles) will hatch out. The larvae have feathery gills around the head, distinguishing them from frog and toad tadpoles. A couple of months after they hatch the larvae start to grow their front legs (again, different from frogs and toads), followed by the back legs. At this time of year adult newts spend quite a lot of time in the water and will hunt frog tadpoles.
When the larvae have absorbed their gills, they leave the water as newtlets (or efts). Adults may still be in or around ponds hunting for food.
Later in the summer and in autumn, newts can be found sheltering under wood, rocks and paving-slabs, in between feeding up on slugs and insects in time for winter.
Smooth Newts spend the winter sheltering under rocks, in compost heaps or buried down in mud; occasionally they will overwinter in ponds. They don’t hibernate as such, and may take advantage of milder patches of weather to come out and forage.