Last updated 15 February 2002: updated Pleurodeles waltl and Triturus alpestris, including link to new page of T. alpestris subspecies.

Newts and Salamanders of Europe

The newts and salamanders of Europe belong predominantly to the Family Salamandridae, with two representatives of the Plethodontidae and one of the curious Proteidae.

Salamandra salamandra, Fire Salamander Salamandra atra, Alpine Salamander Salamandra lanzai, Lanza's Alpine Salamander
Salamandrina terdigitata, Spectacled Salamander Pleurodeles waltl, Sharp-Ribbed Salamander Chioglossa lusitanica, Golden-Striped Salamander
Euproctus asper, Pyrenean Brook Salamander Euproctus platycephalus, Sardinian Brook Salamander Euproctus montanus, Corsican Brook Salamander
Triturus marmoratus, Marbled Newt Triturus alpestris, Alpine Newt Triturus cristatus, Crested Newt
Triturus vittatus, Banded Newt Triturus vulgaris, Common/Smooth Newt Triturus montandoni, Montandon's Newt
Triturus helveticus, Palmate Newt Triturus boscai, Bosca's Newt Triturus italicus, Italian Newt
Hydromantes italicus, Italian Cave Salamander Hydromantes genei, Sardinian Cave Salamander Hydromantes strinatii, French Cave Salamander
Proteus anguinus, Olm    

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes

Salamandra salamandra

Salamandra salamandra (Fire Salamander)

Fire Salamander [D: Feuersalamander]

Fire Salamanders - note variation in dorsal markings

Most of mainland Europe, NW Africa 10-12" One of the largest amphibians anywhere, and extremely handsome, usually being liveried in some form of yellow and black pattern which in fact serves as a notice of its potential toxicity. The parotid glands behind the eyes are prominent: if seized, the Fire Salamander will use these to eject a foul-tasting fluid into the eyes or mouth of its would-be predator. Its skin is also toxic. Its habitat is usually forested hilly or mountainous country, not far from water. Although it cannot swim, this salamander likes moisture and is frequently encountered after rain. The Fire Salamander has also long been a popular terrarium subject which is also fairly hardy and thus easy to keep. There are about 15 subspecies with varying markings: most give birth to 50 or so larvae with four limbs and branchial gills, but some give birth to fully metamorphosed young, completely bypassing the larval stage. It should be noted that Fire Salamanders cannot swim and avoid water except for reproductive purposes. They also dislike hot weather, temperatures above 70 deg F. being potentially dangerous to them.
Salamandra atra

Salamandra atra (Alpine Salamander)

Alpine Salamander [D: Alpensalamander]

Colour variation of S. atra

Alps, Yug. mtns S. of Albania: 700-2,800 m. altitude 6½" Similar in appearance (apart from all-black colouring) and dietary prefences to the Fire Salamander but smaller. Inhabits high mountain forests and often hibernates en masse. Owing to shortage of flowing water in its natural environment, the Alpine Salamander gives birth to two fully formed young, thus bypassing an external larval stage. The pregnancy lasts almost an entire year, the female giving birth in the spring of the year after mating. The gestation process is interesting. 20 or more eggs form in each of the two oviducts, but only one egg developes in each: the others form a mass on which the embryos feed (Hellmich). In former times it was thought by mountaineers to presage bad weather (ibid). This species is PROTECTED throughout its range. Even if this were not so, its requirement for very cool and moist habitats would be too hard for most keepers to meet.
S. a. aurorae Recently described and rare subspecies of S. atra occurring in the Italian Alps: distinguished from the all-black nominate subspecies by yellow, light cream or silver spots on the back (see X. Rivera's article in the Bibliography).
S. a. prenjensis Found in the Yugoslavian mountains: validity of this subspecies is now questioned.
Salamandra lanzai
Salamandra lanzai
Lanza's Alpine Salamander High Western Alps: 700-2,800 m. altitude 6½" ? This little-known salamander, described only in 1988, is larger and stronger than the Alpine Salamander, which it resembles. S. lanzai can be distinguished from S. atra by its lack of glandular pores in the centre of its back, its small membranes between its toes and its rounded tail end (as opposed to the shorter and pointed tail end found in S. atra). Occasionally it is suggested that the Lanza's should be reclassified as a subspecies of the Alpine Salamander.
Salamandrina terdigitata
Salamandrina terdigitata (Spectacled Salamander)
Spectacled Salamander Italy except parts of Adriatic coast 4" Prefers hilly country but seldom found above 1,300 m. Only European salamander to have four toes on each foot. This salamander has a brown back but crimson red ventral surface. They seem to estivate in the dry months of summer but are often active during the winter.
Pleurodeles waltl
Pleurodeles waltl
Sharp-ribbed Salamander
Pleurodeles waltl
Most of Iberia, Morocco 8-12" This salamander derives its name from the fact that the sharp ends of its ribs can be felt in the bright orange tubercles along its sides. It is quite aquatic and normally only leaves the water if the source dries up. Pleurodeles waltl breeds twice a year, early in spring and in high summer. This is another popular vivarium subject that has proved quite hardy and long-lived. In appearance P. waltl is rather dark with small eyes and a rounded head. The fin runs along the entire dorsum. Males have longer tails and during the mating season also develop pads on the underneath of the upper arm. The related Pleurodeles poireti (the only other member of the genus) lives in North Africa.
Chioglossa lusitanica
Golden-Striped Salamander N. Portugal, N. Spain 6" A rather lizard-like salamander in its movements (skittering side-to-side) and ability to shed its tail (autotomy) as a defensive measure. The tail can be regenerated, but is rather grey compared to the original. C. lusitanica is found up to 1,300m up in wet mountain areas with deciduous forest, where it spends the day under rocks and vegetation, coming out at night. It lives near mountain streams and is a strong swimmer, often taking to water if in flight. In colouring it is brown from above with two coppery longitudinal dorsal stripes: the ventral area is grey or brown. The eyes are rather prominent. Sexual maturity is reached at about 4 years of age: the female lays a clutch of 15-20 fertilised eggs in swiftly flowing currents. There are no recorded subspecies. For a picture of the Golden-Striped Salamander, click here.
Euproctus asper
Pyrenean Brook Salamander
Euproctus asper, mating
Pyrenees 6" The Euproctes species occupy a few specialised areas in the Western Mediterranean region and occupy mainly mountainous regions, usually 700-2,500 m although sometimes between 250 and 3,000 m. They usually live close to mountain streams or lakes, or occasionally damp gullies that remain moist. Hibernation takes place below ground in winter, but they may also aestivate in summer. The Brook Salamanders are an earth brown colour with a distinguishing yellow dorsal stripe, thick granular skin and small or vestigial partoid glands.
E. a. castelmouliensis Bagnères-de-Bigorre, France
E. montanus Corsican Brook Salamander Corsica 4-5" Similar in body form to E. platycephalus but the snout protrudes less and the head appears more domed. The tail is only laterally compressed along the last third of its length and the male spur on the hind leg is less pronounced.
E. platycephalus Sardinian Brook Salamander, Flat-Headed Salamander Sardinia 5-6" Slender body with extremely flattened head: nose is protruding and reminiscent of that of a pike. Tail is laterally compressed. Males have a spur-like extension on the hind leg.
Triturus alpestris
Alpine Newt

Alpine Newt
Alpine Newt
Central Europe into France, NW Spain, N Italy, Balkans 4-4½" Fairly widespread species, found equally in flooded stone quarries, lowland meadow ponds and mountain forest pools. However it is predominantly montane, being largely absent from the lowland areas in Europe. Some individuals may be found at up to 9,000 ft. Colouring is ventrally orange and dorsally grey marbling, and in addition males have blue sides and a low crest. Once they leave the water in summer, males lose the crest and the skin of both sexes takes on a warty appearance. Thereafter the Alpine Newt lives on dry land until autumn, when it hibernates for the winter. Females are normally larger than males. If picked up, these newts can make a whistling sound by inflating themselves and releasing the air. This species is also capable of regeneration of limbs. Occasionally larvae do not complete their metamorphosis by autumn, in which case they hibernate and metamorphose the following year. Neoteny has also been occasionally recorded, being found in two subspecies and partly in a third. There are 10 or so subspecies.
Triturus boscai
Bosca's Newt W. Iberia ? Similar to Palmate Newt but males lack tail filament. Inhabits mainly small ponds but sometimes lakes within caves. Click here for a picture.
Triturus cristatus cristatus
Northern Crested Newt
Northern Crested Newt England, Scotland, central Europe from France to Urals, S. Scandinavia to Alps 6-7" The Crested Newt is the largest European newt and is widely distributed. It is also the most aquatic, being found in still- or slow water at low altitude and sometimes at much higher altitudes. Colouring is similar to the Alpine Newt, but males have much more prominent crests while females have none. The Crested Newt lives on aquatic insects and gastropods, but will also attack the larvae of other amphibians and other adult newts. The terrestrial phase is not nearly as long as that of other European newts and covers the hibernation period. In captivity Crested Newts can live for up to 20 years.

In contrast to some or all of the other subspecies, the Alpine Crested Newt T. c. carnifex spends all the year in water.

T. c. carnifex
Alpine Crested Newt
Alpine Crested Newt Austria, N.Yug, Italy
T. c. dobrogicus Danube Crested Newt Danube basin
T. c. karelinii
T. c. karelinii
Southern Crested Newt E. Balkans, Crimea, Asia Minor, N. Iran
Triturus helveticus
Palmate Newt
Palmate Newt W. Europe as far as Scotland and NW Iberia. 2½-4"? See above for remarks on similarity to Montandon's Newt. The main difference is the shorter tail filament (only up to 5mm) and webbed feet in the males. Females lack the tail filament and have a narrower caudal fin and smaller spots on the body. It is highly adaptable, living in ponds, marshes and brackish water in coastal areas but also occupying mountainous regions of up to 2,000 m. Life cycle and diet are the same as Montandon's.
Triturus italicus
Italian Newt
Italian Newt
S. Italy 2-3" Smallest European newt. Males have low border on tail instead of dorsal crest.
Triturus marmoratus

Triturus marmoratus (Marbled Newt)

Marbled Newt SW France, Iberia 5-6" Another popular vivarium subject owing to its beautiful appearance. The green dorsal body colouring is broken up by black "marbling", while the ventral surface is grey. Both sexes also acquire a red dorsal stripe running from neck to tip of the tail in the terrestrial phase of their lives, which the females retain also during the aquatic phase. In the aquatic phase males also acquire a dorsal crest and a silver stripe in the tail which also grows a low dorsal fin. Mating takes place during the short breeding season in slow or moving water, but thereafter the Marbled Newt spends its life on dry ground. Like the axolotl, Marbled Newts have the power of regenerating missing organs.
Triturus montandoni Montandon's Newt Carpathians, Jesenik highlands in N. Moravia 2½-4" Interesting newt confined to small part of Central Europe but closely related to the Palmate Newt T. helveticus of W. Europe. It seems both were once the same species but evolved separately after geographical separation during the ice ages. (A further pointer is that Montandon's Newts have occasionally been found in Germany). Preferred habitat is warm still water over a muddy bottom, but pools of spring water up to 2,000 m. high may also be used. Males have only a fin-like border on the tail, as opposed to the usual dorsal crest, but are larger than the females and the tip of their tail ends in a filament up to 8mm long. There are prominent ridges along the newts' backs which make it somewhat square in cross-section, and the skin is rough. Hybrids between Montandon's Newt and the Smooth Newt have been encountered: these creatures have a longer terminal filament and only a narrow dorsal crest. The aquatic phase of this newt is comparatively short, and thereafter it inhabits dry land for the rest of the year. Larvae occasionally also hibernate and complete their metamorphosis the following year.
Triturus vittatus Banded Newt [D: der Bandmolch] Caspian, Asia Minor, Syria 4-5" Colourful species with the males having light blue and dark blue side stripes from front to rear legs. This newt inhabits high mountain areas (1,000-1,600, sometimes up to 2,800, m.) and lives next to streams with rocky bottoms. In the summer they shelter beneath stones or rotting tree trunks if their stream dries up.
Triturus vulgaris
Smooth/Common Newt
Smooth Newt All Europe, inc. GB and Ire. but not Iberia, S. France or Italy 3-4" Very abundant species from the West of Europe as far east as the Altai Mountains. Primarily found in slow of still water in lowlands, but can also be found in mountainous areas up to 1,500 m (mainly in the South). Once common in cultivated areas but now endangered by use of chemicals. Males are brighter, have a crest from the head to the tip of the tail and are usually larger. Females only have a narrow crest along the tail. In colouring these newts appear much like the other Triturus species. Breeding takes place between April and June, after which the newts leave the water and spend the rest of the year on dry land. Hibernation often takes place in large groups. Neoteny is quite common in the Smooth Newt, with some populations never leaving the water.

Hydromantes italicus Italian Cave Salamander N.& C. Italy, S. France 4" The Hydromantes genus are the only members of the lungless Plethodontidae family to be found in Europe, the rest being distributed mainly in America. The two species are characterised by wide heads, large eyes and five toes linked by webbing. The Cave Salamanders inhabit mountainous regions where they are found near caves or wet fissures. They are only found in cool, moist shady habitats and cannot tolerate high temperatures. Thanks to their webbed feet, prehensile tails and a sticky substance secreted from their epidermis they can scale vertical rock surfaces and also plants. These salamanders prey on arthopods and molluscs, catching them with their tongues in much the same way as a chameleon does, except that the tongue ends in a flattened adhesive disc. It seems that Cave Salamanders give birth to fully-developed young, bypassing the external larval stage.
Hydromantes genei
Sardinian Cave Salamander
Sardinian Cave Salamander Sardinia
Hydromantes strinatii
French Cave Salamander
French Cave Salamander SE Alps, France   Formerly considered a subspecies of H. italicus but raised to full species level in 1996. See the entry in the Amphibian Species of the World Database.

Proteus anguinus

Proteus anguineus (the Olm)

Olm Adriatic Yug. 10-12" The unusual Olm (aka Cave Salamander, although no relation to the Hydromantes spp) is the only European member of the Proteidae family, the rest occurring in America. This species was only discovered in 1875 and even today is only known in about fifty caves in the limestone mountains of the region, plus one isolated location in Italy. Olms are characterised by an elongated body, white unpigmented skin, three pairs of external gills and vestigial, skin-covered eyes which can only perceive light and shadow. The Olm hunts aquatic crustaceans such as water fleas mainly by sensory organs in the skin. If washed out of their caves by heavy rainfall, olms will collect in deep pools, but they will not voluntarily leave the water. At the same time they have lungs and drown if they cannot surface at some point for air. The optimum water temperature for this species is 5-10 C. Females normally give birth to two larvae, but curiously enough if the water is warm enough (about 15 deg C) they can lay up to 80 eggs instead. A lot is still undiscovered about the lives of these mysterious creatures.

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