Great Crested Newt
© 2006 Gustavo Grandjean (1 of 32)
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Austria, Belarus, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Moldova, Republic of, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Romania, Russian Federation, Serbia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Kingdom
The Great Crested Newt is distributed in the forest and forest steppe zones. Isolated populations live in "insular" forests within the European steppes. Triturus cristatus is a typical forest amphibian. It lives in coniferous, mixed and deciduous forests, their glades and edges, in bushlands, meadows, parks and gardens. In southern areas, populations of this newt live in insular forests and in the landscapes of dense vegetation of flooded valleys. Reproduction occurs in stagnant and, rarely, in semi-flowing waters such as ponds, flooded quarries, lakes, irrigation channels and ditches. Such water bodies may be large (several thousand square meters and several meters in depth) or small (5-10 m2 and about 0.5 m in depth). The use of small ponds appears to be more typical in the southern part of its range.
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
Hibernation usually starts in October to November and finishes in February to May (depending on latitude and altitude), when the newts enter the breeding ponds. Adult newts stay in water a long time (sometimes several months) after reproduction. Courtship in this species, as in other members of Triturus cristatus superspecies, is somewhat different from that of the group of "small-bodied" newts (such as T. vulgaris, T. helveticus, etc.), and resembles that in T. vittatus. As in other species of Triturus, the female of the Great Crested Newt tucks each egg or a few eggs into a leaf during oviposition. Clutch consists of 70-600 (usually 150-200) eggs, which are deposited singly or in chains of 2-3 eggs.
Embryogenesis takes 12-20 days. About half of the eggs fail to hatch due to inherent fault at their development. Just after hatching, the larvae live on the bottom, on aquatic plants, or other substrates. Afterwards, they switch to a mainly pelagic life after developing high fin folds, caudal filaments and long toes and fingers. These structures are reduced at metamorphosis and the larvae become benthic. The larval development is longer than many other newts, about 2.5-3 months or more. Metamorphosis occurs in late summer and autumn. Many larvae hibernate and complete their transformation in the next year.
After the exhaustion of embryonic yolk, the larvae primarily eat microcrustaceans: Daphniidae, Chydoridae, Copepoda and small amounts of insects. Afterwards, they prey mainly on plankton as they take up a pelagic life. Large planktonic Daphnia are selected much more than small Diaptomidae. Selectivity toward small crawling invertebrates, e.g. Chydoridae, decreases correspondingly with ontogeny. Terrestrial adults primarily eat earthworms, slugs, insects and their larvae. During the aquatic phase, they consume Mollusca, particularly small Bivalvia, microcrustaceans and insects. Adult newts sometimes display cannibalism and often consume other amphibians, especially at larval and juvenile stages of development. Frequent consumption of vertebrate prey is typical for crested newts, the largest of the aquatic salamanders in Europe. It is even supposed that this predation may cause decline of breeding groups of the Smooth Newt (T. vulgaris) in Moldavia.
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
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Written by Sergius L. Kuzmin (ipe51 AT yahoo.com), Institute of Ecology and Evolution, Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow
First submitted 1999-10-06
Edited by Peera Chantasirivisal (2006-04-05)
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