Palmate newt, a relatively small newt species, is found in Western Europe. In fact, it is the smallest newt found in the United Kingdom. This species gets its English common name because of its webbed hind feet that can be seen among males during mating season.
Species: L. helveticus
The scientific name is Lissotriton helveticus.
Adult male palmate newts tend to be around 8.5 to 9 centimetres in length, while females tend to be around 1 centimetre longer than males.
They have smooth skin with primary color being somewhat brown or green. The color of the underpart is yellow, cream, or pale orange. The belly of palmate newt carries dark spots. A thin dark line goes across their head, on both sides. Male specimens, as well as some female specimens, have dark patches on its back. The identification of palmate newts and smooth newts can be a bit tricky. The throat of palmate newt is not spotted like that of the smooth newt. During breeding season, it develops a low, even crest on its back and it goes over the tail, where it becomes slightly higher, winding up in a fin-like tip. During the non-breeding season, the crest becomes less noticeable; and in some cases, it totally disappears. As the breeding season approaches, the cloacal region among males tends to expand because of spermatophores exerting pressure.
Palmate newt has a great preference for soft-water puddles on acidic soils. In its native geographical range, they commonly inhabit moorlands, heathlands, agricultural lands, pasture, marshes, forests, lakes, and canals. They prefer to live in water-bodies with no fish population.
Palmate newt is primarily a crepuscular species, staying active in dawn and dusk. During the day, they spend most of the time in thick aquatic vegetation.
Palmate Newts are native to western Europe. Their Great Britain population is sporadic. They are common in Scotland and Wales, while they are not seen in southern England, East Anglia and Midlands. Scattered population of this little newt species can be seen in Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, Spain and Portugal.
This little carnivorous feed on zooplankton, small crustaceans, frog tadpoles, and invertebrates. They employ their sticky tongue to catch its prey. At times, they are known to showcase cannibalistic propensity.
Palmate newt are known to live up to ten years, in its natural habitat.
Following winter months, both males and females move near water bodies. Mating season starts around April and continues till May. Males engage in courtship display in order to attract females. A palmate newt female lays few eggs each day over course of few weeks; and in one breeding season, the female can lay 80 – 300 eggs. The eggs are laid individually on underwater plants. Each egg stays covered with a transparent capsule-like jelly. In 14 to 21 days, the eggs hatch into larvae that carry feathery gills behind their head. Metamorphosis starts after 40 to 65 days from hatching. In colder places, the larvae spend the whole winter in the water; and goes through metamorphosis in the following year. A palmate newt baby reaches sexual maturity at the age of two years. However, neoteny is common in this species.
Palmate newt enjoys legal protection in all of its native ranges. It is common in the United Kingdom. Even though it is listed in ‘Least Concern’ category by the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, yet habitat loss in some of its native range can be a threat for the survival of this species. It is believed to be vulnerable in Poland and Spain; and rare in Belgium, Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The sale of Palmate newt is strictly prohibited as per 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act.
Its larvae is identical to that of the larvae of smooth newt.
Palmate newt’s predators include different large fishes, large newts and snakes. Occasionally, both adults and larval specimens are preyed upon by ducks, kingfishers and other bird species that tend to search food in and around water-bodies.
These species spend the whole winter on dry land taking shelter in compost heaps, under rocks, under logs and even conceal itself down in the mud. However, Palmate newts do not spend the winter months in total hibernation. When the weather becomes a little mild, they come out of the shelter and forage.
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