Monday, August 15, 2011
Smooth Newt North Fife
Our most widespread newt, is found throughout Britain and is the only newt species to be found in Ireland. It can grow to 10cm and is most often found in ponds during the breeding season between February and June. The Smooth Newt is brown, the female being relatively plain whilst the male is spotty and develops a continuous wavy crest along its back in the breeding season. The belly of both sexes is yellow to orange with black spots and the spots on the throat provide a good way of telling this species apart from Palmate Newts (which have no spots on their throat). Outside the breeding season newts come onto land and live in damp places; they are most frequently encountered underneath logs and debris at this phase in their annual cycle. Newts found in these circumstances are sometimes confused with lizards but lizards are quick and active and have scaly rather than smooth skin.
Newts eat small invertebrates either on land or in the water. Like frogs and toads they have a tadpole stage; a newt tadpole is called an eft. Unlike frogs and toads, the tadpoles of newts develop their front legs before their back legs. Newt efts breathe through external feathery gills which sprout from behind the head. Spawn is laid as individual eggs each of which is carefully wrapped in a leaf of pond weed by the female newt.
The Smooth Newt, like the Common Frog is often found in garden ponds, frequently arriving of its own accord. Like the frog its tadpoles will be eaten by fish if they are present. Garden ponds have become extremely important for this species especially as ponds in the wider countryside have become fewer and more polluted.
Smooth Newts are protected by law in Great Britain against being sold or traded in any way. In Northern Ireland they are fully protected thus prohibiting killing, injuring, capturing, disturbance, possession or trade.