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Common Newt Lissotriton vulgaris

It is hard to tell the difference between newts and frogs should you be looking at the head only. Still one difference is very clear indeed: newts keep their tail, while frogs lose it once adult. In most part of Europe newts have a bad time. Many species are endangered. There is one clear exception, though: the Common Newt does allright. It is tolerable towards the quality of the water it lives in and doesn't need vast lakes to survive. A small garden pond often is quite satisfactory and there are plenty of those. But ditches, puddles and brooks are fine as well and even brackish waters will do.

The Common Newt, also known as Smooth Newt or Brown Eft, only spends a portion of its life in water, for in summer, autumn and winter it lives on land exclusively. Male and female look alike during these parts of the year: brown or dark olivegreen on top and a lighter speckled underside. After hibernation the female doesn't change much. The male however becomes much more contrasting, having an orange underside. The animals now hurry towards the water in order to mate. During this short period of time a lot of the natural shyness is lost and often one sees the animals actively swimming about, only an inch below the surface. The animals are especially active during hours of daylight. This is amazing, for as soon as they leave the water, usually in June, they become nocturnal animals again, seldomly seen during daytime, except after some very heavy rains. In our garden we see them every spring. When cleaning the pond, it is not unusal one of our little friends is caught in the drab.

Mating season starts in March and lasts quite a long time, some 3 months. Frogs often deposit their eggs in big lumps and some toads in long lines, newts deposit their eggs individually and attach them to waterplants. The larvae quickly hatch and remain extremely small, for their length never exceeds 3 centimeters. After two or three weeks the front legs appear and some two weeks later the hind legs. A newt has four fingers and five toes. Once adult the males grow to some 7 to 8 centimeters, females usually are one centimeter longer. In captivity newts may reach the age of 19, quite incredible for such a small creature! Luckily this is still a very common species all over Europe, including all of the British Isles. By the way, the scientific name of this species has recently be changed from Triturus vulgaris to Lissotriton vulgaris.