With a total length of up to 80 mm for the larger females, this species is
considered the smallest of the European newts. Glandular ridges alongside
the back give the newts a flat-backed appearance. The tail reaches about
snout-vent length and develops a smooth low crest and a small filament at
the tail tip during the aquatic phase in both sexes. There is no dorsal
crest in either sex. The skin is brownish or olive-brown, with large dark
brown or black spots in males. During the aquatic phase the flanks show a
light, metallic golden spotting. These metallic markings are lost during the
terrestrial phase, when the skin gets a velvet-like texture and becomes
water-repellant. The tail crest also diminishes during this phase. The belly
is a pale yellow and has a dark spotting that can form diffuse bands along
the sides of the belly and that can extend onto the darker throat
(Noellert and Noellert 1992). There is no dark stripe through the
eye, but there is a small yellow patch behind the eye (Griffiths 1996).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Italy
The Italian newt is an endemic species of central and southern Italy. It does
not occur is Sicily. The species is distributed south-east of an imaginary
line connecting Ancona on the northeastern coast (43º38'N-13º30'E) and Genga
(43º26'N-12º56'E) in Marche, with Gran Sasso d'Italia in the Abruzzo mountains
and from there to Formia on the south-west coast (41º15'N-13º37'E), more
precisely the surroundings of Maranola in the Aurunci mountains, in the south
of Lazio. This boundary is only an indication of the real distribution. The
westernmost locality seems to be a stream near Piobbico in Marche and the
nearby localities of Genga and Serra San Quirico, southwest of Ancona. The
italian newt inhabits the southeastern slopes of the Apennine mountains in
Abruzzo, between altitudes of 260 and 1180m, but ist occurrence in the higher
parts of the Abruzzo mountains is very doubtful. The species was not found,
for instance, by Müller and his workers in 1971 and 1972. Of the known
Abruzzo localities (Gran Sasso d'Italia, La Maiella, Le Mainarde and Maltese),
the species was no longer found in Gran Sasso d'Italia and Le Mainarde in
recent years. The distribution of T. italicus can be considered
broadly vicariant with that of T. vulgaris meridionalis.
The species is most common at altitudes below 800m but it also occurs
in the mountains at altitudes well over 1000m. The highest elevations
from which specimens are recorded are at 1520m at Cugno d'Acero in the
Pollino Massif and 1525m, above Lago Remmo, near Lagonegro in the province
of Potenza, in Basilicata (Gasc 1997).
During the aquatic phase, this warmth-loving species occurs in small,
temporary pools of stagnant water. It also occurs in cooler and deeper
cisterns or slow moving streams where it lives in the shallower parts of
the water to avoid predation (Griffiths 1996). During the terrestrial
stage, the newts can be found under rocks and logs
(Noellert and Noellert 1992).
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The reproductive period starts in January at lower elevations. Courtship and
mating takes place in water. The courtship behavior is roughly the same as in
T. boscai. Each egg is individually attached to water plants. The eggs
are 1.5mm in diameter and have an oval gelatinous envelope. The larvae hatch
after an embryonal development of only 2-4 days at a length of 5-7mm. In the
relatively warm habitats metamorphosis can be completed after 4-6 weeks. In
the colder habitats, like deep cisterns, larval development can take several
months. Newly metamorphosed juveniles on average measure 26mm total length.
Neoteny also occurs in this species. There is no data on sexual maturity or
longevity (Noellert and Noellert 1992).
The food consists of planktonic prey and other invertebrates
(Griffiths 1996). In the reproductive period, the animals are
active during the day as well as the night. Outside this period, activity
is restricted to rainy or humid nights. Adults hibernate and aestivate on
land. In the southern part of the distribution, hibernation is oftentimes
skipped and the newts can stay in the water over several years.
Trends and Threats
Specific data on the species' abundance are not available. In various reports,
it is regarded as of quite common occurance at lower altitudes. It is
considered the most common newt in southern Italy. In the central Italian
Apennines, the italian newt is uncommon or even rare at higher altitudes,
whereas in the more southerly Alburni and Calabrian mountain ranges it is
common, although not abundant. T. italicus is known as occupying
man-made biotopes in farmland, artificial ponds and cisterns. Although
in this manner man has certainly influenced its occurrence in a positive
way, man has contributed to its decline in many areas in recent years.
In Marche, Campania, Puglia, Basilicata and Calabria, in places where
T. italicus was reported as being rather common 10 to 20 years ago,
it seems to have become rare due to drainage, industrial use and pollution
of the water bodies where it occurred. In the Abruzzo mountains the species
has apparantly disappeared from a number of localities in recent times.
In the Sila Grande area, in Calabria, the number of breeding sites have
decreased drastically since 1975, due to the introduction of
Salmo trutta and neglect of irrigation tanks
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
Drainage of habitat
Local pesticides, fertilizers, and pollutants
Predators (natural or introduced)
Gasc, J.-P. (1997). Atlas of Amphibians and Reptiles in Europe. Societas Europaea Herpetologica, Bonn, Germany.
Griffiths, R.A. (1996). Newts and Salamanders of Europe. T. and A. D. Poyser, London.
Nöllert, A. and Nöllert, C. (1992). Die Amphibien Europas. Franckh-Kosmos Verlags-GmbH and Company, Stuttgart.
Stumpel-Rieks, S. E. (1992). Nomina Herpetofaunae Europaeae. AULA-Verlag, Wiesbaden.
Written by Arie van der Meijden (amphibia AT arievandermeijden.nl), Museum of Vertebrate Zoology, UC Berkeley
First submitted 2000-01-25
Edited by Kellie Whittaker (2008-08-06)
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Citation: AmphibiaWeb: Information on
amphibian biology and conservation. [web application]. 2016. Berkeley, California:
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