Added 17 August 2003. Last updated 21 January 2007 updated P. waltl and Bibliography.

Newts and Salamanders of Europe

Genus Pleurodeles - Sharp-Ribbed Newts

This is a small genus of fairly aquatic newts confined to Iberia and North Africa. Both species are fairly large for their family, Iberian specimens reaching a record of 16"/40cm: North African specimens tend to be smaller. They are characterised by their granular skin and flattish heads which are somewhat triangular when viewed from above (KKS). Pleurodeles waltl has been frequently kept in captivity and can be readily obtained today, but data on P. poinsetti is very thin and it is normally only mentioned in passing.

Neither species occurs in the range of the other. Although the two species can interbreed, KKS note that the offspring are not very viable and rarely survive metamorphosis.

NOTES: In the text, KKS refers to Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa (see Bibliography).

Pleurodeles waltl, Sharp-Ribbed Salamander Pleurodeles poinsetti, Algerian Salamander  

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
P. waltl
Pleurodeles waltl
Sharp-ribbed Salamander/ Ribbed Newt/ Spanish Newt [Fr Pleurodèle de Waltl, Triton d'Espagne: D Spanischer Rippenmolch]
S Iberia and Morocco 6-12"/15-30cm 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: in the latter case, it may instead simply aestivate (a form of hibernation). Preferred habitat is usually of the Mediterranean type, where it will use both natural and man-made bodies of water: deep ponds, however, seem to be preferred. This is another popular vivarium subject that has proved quite hardy and long-lived, records of 25 years having been attained. Description: in appearance P. waltl is rather dark with small eyes and a rounded head. There are 7-10 obvious warts along each side, these being the poison glands which the ribs may pierce in an emergency, releasing the toxin. Skin coarsely granular, each granule having a horny tip. 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. Coloration: dorsally overall yellowish-grey to olive or brown. Males tend to be more reddish, and both sexes may darken with age. Ventral colour may be yellow, orange, whitish or grey, usually with irregular dark markings. Reproduction: Pleurodeles waltl breeds twice a year, early in spring and in high summer. The male swims with the female on his back for a considerable time before releasing a spermatophore in front of her and turning her around so that she can take it in her cloaca. Egg-laying takes place 2-3 days later. 15-1,300 eggs are laid, depending on the size of the female. The eggs are attached in clumps of 10-20 to plants, stones or the bottom of the body of water. Hatching occurs in 1-2 weeks. The juveniles reach sexual maturity in 18 months and may not have a terrestrial phase: neoteny is also known in this species.
P. poinsetti Poiret's Newt, Algerian Newt [Fr Triton de Poiret: D Algerischer Rippenmolch] C & E Algeria, N Tunisia (coastal zone) 18-19 cm  P. poinsetti is mostly found within its range in cool cisterns. The ribs in this species do not pierce the sides, which in turn means that the sides lack the yellow spots found in P. waltl. KKS note that there are almost no field records of the general ecology and behaviour of this species. Coloration: overall brown with a greenish or yellowish effect and irregular dark patches: there are very small yellow or brown dots on the head, back and tail. Reproduction: adult males can be distinguished generally by longer tails and during the mating season by their swollen cloaca and reddish brown nuptial pads. Courtship and mating are similar to those of P. waltl (see KKS for the differences).


Guia de campo de los anfibios y reptiles de la peninsula iberica, islas baleares y canarias [Field Guide to the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Iberian Peninsula, Balearic and Canary Islands], Alfredo Salvador, Madrid. ISBN: 84-86238-07-2. Excellent book covering all reptiles and amphibians in the aforementioned areas with a section on each species. The one drawback for English speakers is that the text is Spanish. This book is unfortunately now out of print, but well worth purchasing if you can get a second hand copy.

Collins Field Guide: Reptiles & Amphibians of Europe, Arnold, Burton & Ovenden, Collins 1978, revised edition 2002/4.

Amphibians and Reptiles of North Africa, W Kästle, H H Schleich and K Kabisch, Koeltz Scientific Books, Germany 1996. Outstanding review of N African herpetofauna giving detailed account of each species. All the details for P. poinsetti were taken from this source.

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