Alpine Newt

Nomenclature

Common name:  Alpine Newt   /SARG/13000-Identification/lizardnewtnegative.jpg
Taxonomy:  Ichthyosaura alpestris
(previously classified as Triturus alpestris).

Introduction

This is an attractive newt is an introduced species from Europe, where it prefers small ponds in upland areas. It has a bluish-tinged dorsal surface, dark spotted bands along the sides and a bright yellow/orange unspotted belly.

It is distributed in scattered but isolated populations in a few Counties – mainly in garden ponds.


Identification

This middle-sized newt grows up to 11cm long. The skin is slightly verrucose [not smooth] and in the male is dark with a bluish tinge. Pale lateral lines are spotted and highlighted with a pale blue flash which in turn emphasises the separation from the bright orange underbelly. In the breeding season the males have a low yellow/white crest with dark spots or stripes which give a chequered effect. The female is generally browner with a marbled dorsal surface.

This European newt is distributed across Europe and variations in morphology occur between widely separated or isolated populations. Variations include spotted throats, red bellies and occasionally white stipples on the sides.


Sexual Dimorphism

Male Alpine newts are brightly coloured with a bluish tinged dorsal surface and possess a low chequered dorsal crest.


Distribution

This European newt is distributed from north-east France to extreme western Ukraine and Romania and from Denmark in the north to Greece and Italy. Isolated populations are found in Spain.

Within the UK, Alpine newts were introduced to a nursery in Newdigate, Surrey in the 1920s and this population is still extant, and can be found in ponds surrounding the area. Other populations have been recorded in Birmingham, Brighton, south-east London, Shropshire and Sunderland.

National distribution

National distribution for the Alpine Newt

Surrey distribution for the Alpine Newt


Habitat

This montane species can be found up to 2500m in mountain pools but its distribution also extends to a wide range of lowland areas. Some populations in the Balkans, Italy and Southern France exhibit neoteny (adults retain gills and larval form).


Activity

During the terrestrial phase in summer these newts mainly feed at night.

JanFebMarAprMayJunJulAugSepOctNovDec
Hibernation
Aquatic Courtship
Terestrial foraging
Metamorphosis

Food

Alpine newts emerge at night to hunt invertebrates when in their terrestrial phase. Whilst in their aquatic phase, their diet comprises invertbrates from both the pond and the pond edges.


Predators

Alpine newt tadpoles are predated by dragonfly larvae, water beetle larvae, adult newts and fish. The adults main theat comes from water birds, hedgehogs and rats.


Shelter

Alpine newts hibernate on land under stones, in cracks and crevasses, under roots etc.


Reproduction

The Male Alpine newt approaches the female and performs a tail-fanning dance by which means pheromones are wafted towards the female. Males also adopt a typical ‘cat-stalking’ side bending position as seen in the Crested newts.

The male then places a sac or spermatophore on the pond base, the female swims over this and the sac is absorbed into the cloaca. Fertilization then takes place within the female.

200-300 eggs are laid individually in the leaves of submergent aquatic plants. The leaves are then folded to give the developing embryos some protection from predation.


Conservation

As an introduced species, the Alpine newt is not protected by British wildlife conservation laws.

The Alpine newt is believed to be a carrier of the chytrid fungus infestation. This extremely dangerous disease could lead to the extinction of all native British amphibians.

If you believe you have seen Alpine newts in your garden, it is voiitally important that you inform SARG, so that they can be tested for Chytrid fungal infection.



Information

Principal Author: Main Illustrator: Review: Updated:
Dr Julia Wycherley MBE Various Reviewer 28 May 2008