Tuesday, 16 October 2012

The Palmate Newt

May I introduce you to my neighbour, the Palmate Newt Lissotriton helveticus. I found this little fella under a refugia behind the farm buildings. This is the only species of newt living on Skomer.

Palmate Newt, from the front. S.Harris.

Elsewhere, the Palmate Newt is found across Western Europe, with the exception of Ireland. Sadly it is rare and endangered in the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg and vulnerable in Spain and Poland. Here in the UK they are widespread and common, but thought to be in decline due to habitat loss.
Palmate Newts are fairly common in Scotland, Wales and southern England, but absent from much of central England. They can be found in the Heathlands of the southwest and Moorlands and Bogs of the north. 

Palmate Newt from above. S.Harris.

This Palmate Newt was just 6cm in length but adult males can reach 8.5cm and adult females up to 10cm. The Palmate Newt is similar to the Smooth Newt, but the Smooth Newt has spotting on its throat and does not occur on Skomer! During the breeding season more differences between the two become apparent in the tail and feet.

Green Pond, Palmate Newt habitat. S.Harris.

The breeding season runs from February to May. The Palmate Newts favourite place to be is in shallow ponds on acid-rich soil but can also be found in lakes, marshes, wooded areas and farmland. Palmate Newts lay their eggs on plant leaves in ponds, the egg will then hatch two to three weeks later and then the larvae, known as an eft, metamorphose between six and nine weeks after this. The eft has external gills and grows its front legs first, unlike tadpoles. Once they have metamorphosed they leave the ponds and become terrestrial. They reach sexual maturity at two years.
Palmate Newt from the side. S.Harris.

The adult newts also become terrestrial outside of the breeding season and during this time both adults and juveniles are most active on rainy or humid nights. They hibernate under logs or stones from November to March. Palmate Newts can live for an impressive ten years.
"You can't see me!" S.Harris.

So, this little newt looks cute but feeds on invertebrates, small crustaceans, and planktonic animals including daphnia and even tadpoles! Not only this, they also have cannibalistic tendencies - not so cute after all! But what a little stunner, it is great to know they are living just out the back of the farm buildings.

Sarah Harris.
Assistant Warden.

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