Added 16 August 2002: split from European Newts and Salamanders and added new introduction and separate entries for T. carnifex, T. dobrogicus and T. karelinii.

Newts and Salamanders of Europe

Genus Triturus: European Newts

Mention the word "newt" to any European, and the chances are that he or she will instantly think of one of the Triturus species. These small but significant animals have a huge range, from Ireland to Iran and as far north as Scandinavia.

The Triturus are characterised by their semiaquatic lifecycle, which for most species involves returning to the water after waking from hibernation in order to breed. This usually involves a certain amount of bodily change, mainly among the males who usually develop brighter colours and a crest on the tail and possibly on the back as well. In addition, fringes or webbing may appear on the hind toes, which may become extended instead. Both sexes may also develop a dorsolateral glandular swelling and their tails may become more "paddle-like" (Indiviglio) to assist in swimming. Courtship is fairly elaborate, and egg-laying may take some time. Later in the year most newts become terrestrial, losing their mating insignia in the process. However, some high-altitude or deep water populations may spend most or even all of the year in the water.

Most if not all Triturus species are protected to a lesser or greater degree by law, but it is possible to legally purchase individuals from European breeders (check your national law first, however). Triturus newts have been kept and bred successfully in captivity, but Indiviglio notes that they are very sensitive to water quality, so optimum care is very important.

Triturus alpestris, Alpine Newt Triturus boscai, Bosca's Newt Triturus carnifex, Alpine Crested Newt
Triturus cristatus, Crested Newt Triturus dobrogicus, Donau Crested Newt Triturus helveticus, Palmate Newt
Triturus italicus, Italian Newt Triturus karelinii, Southern/Balkan Crested Newt Triturus marmoratus, Marbled Newt
Triturus montandoni, Montandon's Newt Triturus vittatus, Banded Newt Triturus vulgaris, Common/Smooth Newt

Scientific Name Common Name Distribution Size Notes
T. alpestris

Alpine Newt [Fr Triton alpestre: D Bergmolch]
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.
T. boscai
Bosca's Newt [Fr Triton Boscai: D Spanischer Wassermolch] W. Iberia (Spain and Portugal) ? Similar to Palmate Newt but males lack tail filament. Inhabits mainly small ponds but sometimes lakes within caves. Click here for a picture.
T. carnifex
Alpine Crested Newt [D Alpen- Kammolch] Austria, N.Yug, Italy   In contrast to some or all of the other species, the Alpine Crested Newt spends all the year in water.
T. cristatus
Crested Newt [Fr Triton crêté: D Kammmolch] England, Scotland, central Europe from France to Urals, S. Scandinavia to Alps 18-20 cm 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. A number of subspecies (carnifex, dobrogicus and karelinii) belonging to this species have all been raised to full species level.
T. dobrogicus Danube Crested Newt [Fr Triton crêté du Danube: D Donau- Kammolch] Mainly Danube valley and its drainages: Austria (from W of Linz), S Czech, Hungary as far east as Ukrainian Carpathians, south to E former Yugoslavia, S Romania and N Bulgaria: also Danube delta in Romania and Moldavia m.12cm f 13cm Found mainly in slow waters with thick bottom vegetation. It is characterised among other things by a relatively narrow head. 
T. helveticus
Palmate Newt [Fr Triton palmé: D Fadenmolch] 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.
T. h. helveticus Most of range  
T. h. punctillatus Spain (karst lake Pozo Negro in Burgos)  
T. h. sequeirai N Portugal, NW Spain  
T. italicus
Italian Newt [Fr Triton italien: D Italienischer Wassermolch]
S. Italy 2-3" Smallest European newt. Males have low border on tail instead of dorsal crest.
T. karelinii
Southern/Balkan Crested Newt [D Balkan- Kammolch] E. Balkans, Crimea, Asia Minor, N. Iran 18-20 cm  
T. marmoratus

Marbled Newt [Fr Triton marbré: D Marmormolch] 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.
T. m. marmoratus Most of range
T. m. pygmaeus S Iberia
T. montandoni Montandon's Newt [Fr Triton des Carpathes: D Karpatenmolch] 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.
T. 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.
T. vulgaris
Smooth/Common Newt
Smooth Newt [Fr Triton ponctué: D Teichmolch] 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. There are several subspecies.

Back to Salamandridae | Back to European Herps | Amphibians | Reptiles | Back to Home Page