Lake Urmia Newt, Yellow Spotted Newt, Azerbaijan Newt, Neurergue du Lac Ourmia
© 2000 Henk Wallays (1 of 15)
The larvae have a total body length between 35 - 70 mm and a dorsal fin that protrudes from the center back (Schmidtler and Schmidtler 1975, Najafi-Majd and Kaya 2013). Larval morphology is adapted to living in streams with water currents by possessing low tails, low dorsal fins, and reduced gills with a long, slender body type (Steinfartz et al. 2002).
Neurergus crocatus can be differentiated from all members of Triturus, their sister genus, by males N. crocatus not developing dorsal crests during the breeding season (Wiens et al. 2010). Neurergus crocatus is easily distinguished from N. kaiseri by size, with N. kaiseri being significantly smaller and having a conical cloaca with larger protruding lips (Schmidtler and Schmidtler 1975). Neurergus crocatus, N. derjugini (formerly N. microspilotus), and N. strauchii are all similar looking species with bright yellow spots occurring on a grey-black ground color. However, N. crocatus can be differentiated from N. strauchii by the former having larger and less numerous yellow dorsal spots and a completely yellow to orange venter (Baran and Öz 1986, Schneider and Schneider 2010, Sparreboom 2014). During the breeding season, the cloaca in N. derjugini is more conical than N. crocatus. Additionally, in N. derjugini, the spots are more uniformly small on the dorsum and tail, and there are black spots on the orange throat and edges of the ventrum (Schmidtler and Schmidtler 1975, Najafi-Majd and Kaya 2013).
Larval Neurergus crocatus are generally larger than N. kaiseri, but the two can also be differentiated by coloration and patterning. Neurergus crocatus have a darker background background color with brighter spots. From the more similar N. derjugini and N. strauchii, N. crocatus can be differentiated by the latter having a longer dorsal fin that extends from the tip of the tail to just below the head and a brighter ventrum. Additionally, N. derjugini larvae have two broad dorsal stripes (Schmidtler and Schmidtler 1975, Najafi-Majd and Kaya 2013).
In life, Neurergus crocatus have a dorsal coloration, including the tail, of dark brown to black with small round yellow spots near midline and large light yellow spots in lateral positions. Their ventral side, including underside of legs and tails, is uniformly orange, reddish-orange in males and more yellowish-orange in females. The chin and ventral line of the tail are a paler color then the belly. During the breeding season, males become more shiny and their spots on the dorsal tail become white (Cope 1862, Baran and Öz 1986, Schnider and Schnider 2010, Najafi-Majd and Kaya 2013).
In life, the dorsal pattering of small larvae is light gray with irregular black spots. For larvae greater than 50 mm in total body length the spots are large, bright, and irregular. The more mature larvae belly is almost brightly unicolored and the tail is darkly pigmented (Schmidtler and Schmidtler 1975, Najafi-Majd and Kaya 2013).
Despite what had been previously presumed about the species, there seems to be distinct sexual dimorphism of coloration. The adult males have a few bright white spots in a single line down the tail, whereas the adult females have a few yellow and irregularly arranged spots on their tail. Males also appear to be smaller and more slender than females. More generally, most individuals have a large blotch at the base of their tail, however in some individuals this blotch is expanded into a band. The spots and blotches on the lateral surfaces of individuals may also extend onto the ventrum (Schneider and Schneider 2010).
Distribution and Habitat
Country distribution from AmphibiaWeb's database: Iran, Islamic Republic of, Iraq, Turkey
Life History, Abundance, Activity, and Special Behaviors
The breeding season depends on elevation (Papenfuss et al. 2009) and courtship occurs in montane streams. The courtship behavior for N. crocatus starts with males pursuing females and trying to position himself in front of her. The pair will stand more or less face to face as the male begins to fan his tail, beginning at the tail base and ending at the tip, making tail slaps approximately 4 cm away from a female. In N. crocatus specifically, the fanning lasts up to 25 seconds with approximately 3 tail beats per second. Soon after, the male deposits the spermatophore in front of the female and the female walks over the spermatophore to pick it up with her cloaca. Females deposit eggs in clusters of 20 - 40 eggs under flat stones (Sparreboom et al. 2002, Schnider and Schnider 2010). Yolks are yellow and approximately 2 mm (Schmidtler and Schmidtler 1975).
After courtship, the adults will leave the streams and go into the surrounding areas, although little is known about their terrestrial activity (Najafi-Majd and Kaya 2013).
Aquatic adults or larvae are thought to prey on larvae of stoneflies and other fly larvae found in streams (Schneider and Schneider 2010).
Trends and Threats
Relation to Humans
Possible reasons for amphibian decline
General habitat alteration and loss
As of 2019, there are five known species of Neurergus: N. barani, N. crocatus, N. derjugini, N. kaiseri and N. strauchii. Analysis based on over 8000 Restriction Site Associated DNA (RAD) sequences resulted in conflicting relationships within the genus. In one analysis, N. crocatus is sister to the clade that includes N. derjugini and N. kaiseri while Neurergus strauchii and N. barani are sister to the rest of the genus. However, a second analysis found that N. crocatus and N. derjugini are sister taxon, indicating low resolution in the true evolutionary relationships between N. crocatus, N. derjugini, and N. kaiseri (Rancilhac et al. 2019).
Speciation is suspected to have arisen in the genus due to sexual isolation through allopatric processes rather than sympatric processes (Rancilhac et al. 2019).
The genus name, “Neurergus” comes from the Greek “neuron” meaning ‘‘sinew” or “tendon’’ and “ergon” meaning ‘‘work’’ (Dubois and Raffaëlli 2009)
Aside from the Yellow Spotted Newt, the species has two other English common names: the Azerbaijan Newt and the Lake Urmia Newt (Sparreboom et al. 2002).
The species was not studied in Iran for approximately 150 years. Najafi-Majd and Kaya (2013) were able to confirm the species' existence in Northwestern Iran and expanded the range of N. crocatus.
Baran, İ., Öz, M. (1986). ''On the occurrence of Neurergus crocatus and N. strauchii in Southeast Anatolia.'' Zoology in the Middle East, 1(1), 96-99. [link]
Dubois, A., Raffaelli, J. (2009). ''A new ergotaxonomy of the family Salamandridae Goldfuss, 1820 (Amphibia, Urodela).'' Alytes, (26), (1–4) (1–85). [link]
Najafi-Majd, E, Kaya, U. (2013). ''Rediscovery of the Lake Urmia newt, Neurergus crocatus Cope, 1862 (Caudata: Salamandridae) in northwestern Iran after 150 years.'' Amphibian and Reptile Conservation , 6(4), 36-41. [link]
Papenfuss, T., Sparreboom, M., Ugurtas, I.H., Rastegar-Pouyani, N., Kuzmin, S., Anderson, S., Eken, G., Kiliç, T., Gem, E., Kaya, U. (2009). “Neurergus crocatus (errata version published in 2016).” The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T14734A86247230.
Schmidtler, J. J., and Schmidtler, J. F. (1975). ''Untersuchungen an westpersischen Bergbachmolchen der Gattung Neurergus.'' Salamandra, 11, 84-98. [link]
Schneider, C. Schneider, W. (2010). ''Field notes on the ecology and distribution of Neurergus crocatus COPE, 1862 and Neurergus strauchii strauchii (Steindachner, 1887) in Turkey.'' Herpetozoa, 23(1/2), 59-69. [link]
Sparreboom, M. (2014). Salamanders of the Old World: The Salamanders of Europe, Asia and Northern Africa. Zeist, Brill, The Netherlands.
Sparreboom, M., Steinfartz, S., Schultschik, G. (2002). ''Courtship behaviour of Neurergus (Caudata: Salamandridae).'' Amphibia Reptilia , 21(1), 1-12. [link]
Steinfartz, S., Hwang, U. W., Tautz, D., Öz, M., and Veith, M. (2002). ''Molecular phylogeny of the salamandrid genus Neurergus: evidence for an intrageneric switch of reproductive biology.'' Amphibia-Reptilia, 23, 419-431. [link]
Wiens, J. J., Sparreboom, M., and Arntzen, J. W. (2011). ''Crest evolution in newts: Implications for reconstruction methods, sexual selection, phenotypic plasticity and the origin of novelties.'' Journal of Evolutionary Biology, 24(10), 2073-2086. [link]
Originally submitted by: Kaitlin Lopez, Wendy Chen, and Misaki Yonashiro (first posted 2019-11-04)
Edited by: Ann T. Chang (2021-01-26)
Species Account Citation: AmphibiaWeb 2021 Neurergus crocatus: Lake Urmia Newt <https://amphibiaweb.org/species/4258> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed May 21, 2022.
Feedback or comments about this page.
Citation: AmphibiaWeb. 2022. <https://amphibiaweb.org> University of California, Berkeley, CA, USA. Accessed 21 May 2022.
AmphibiaWeb's policy on data use.