Crested Newt

Our largest but rarest species of newt

Author: Werner Bartsch
Author: Werner Bartsch

Making an impression with its jagged crest

The Crested Newt belongs to the order Caudata (tailed amphibians), and with a length of up to 18 cm is the largest newt species occurring in South Westphalia. Its upperside is dark brown to black, while the underside is either yellow- or orange-coloured, and is covered with large, black blotches, which form a unique pattern in each individual. During the mating season the males develop a jagged, comb-like crest of skin, which is interrupted at the base of the tail.

The Crested Newt traditionally occurs in river and stream floodplains. During the spawning period it populates bodies of standing water, such as backwaters and vegetation-rich, sunlit ponds. After the spawning season the newts can be found in deciduous and mixed forests, and in hedges and bushes near the spawning grounds where they can hibernate.

The aquatic phase can begin as early as late February. Courtship and mating take place from mid-April to late May. Adult newts leave the breeding site soon after the reproductive phase, and from August to October search out their winter habitats on land or in ponds. The maximum migration distance on land is around 1,000 m. Young newts become sexually mature after two to three years.

The Crested Newt is the rarest native newt of North Rhine-Westphalia, and is classified as "endangered". The main distribution area is in the lowlands; in mountainous regions the species does not occur at elevations above 400 m.

In addition to the Crested Newt, the smaller Alpine and Smooth Newts also occur in South Westphalia and are often associated with the Crested Newt in the same waters. The Palmate Newt is restricted to the low mountain regions.