Great crested newts (Triturus cristatus) are Britain’s largest and rarest newt species, locally abundant around parts of the Clyde catchment.
Adults Great crested newts can reach 15-18 cm in length. The back of the body is generally dark brown to black with white-tipped warts. The underside is bright orange with black markings that are unique to each individual. During the breeding season, males develop an impressive jagged crest along their back and a white 'flash' along the tail. Males and females also present black and orange striped toes.
Great crested newts emerge from hibernation around March to migrate to breeding sites. Males reach the pounds first and feed well to develop their breeding crest and toe webs. They display an elaborate courtship routine before mating: the male stands on his front legs in front of a female with an arched back while he waves his tail around. If the female is receptive the male transfers a spermatophore (packet of sperm). The female then picks it up with her cloaca to allow an internal fertilization. After a few days, the eggs are laid and each one is wrapped up in pond plant leaves and/or pond detritus for protection. 2-3 weeks later, the eggs hatch as tadpoles which then take a further three months to develop into a young newt capable of leaving the water. Great crested newts leave the water in August and September. It takes one to three years to a young newt to become sexually mature.
Great Crested Newts usually live about 10 years. They are strictly carnivorous. Adults eat frog and toad tadpoles, insects, worms, slugs and even other newts. Tadpoles eat aquatic animals such as water fleas, small worms and insect larvae. This species normally return to the same breeding site each year. They inhabit in terrestrial habitats with dense cover, such as scrub, rough grass and woodland, usually within about 200 metres of the breeding pond and rest during the day beneath rocks, logs or other shelter. During the winter months, great crested newts hibernate under logs and stones or in the mud at the bottom of their breeding ponds.
The great crested newt is a priority species under the UK Biodiversity Action Plan (BAP). Due to enormous declines in range and abundance in the last century, the great crested newt is fully protected by in Scotland under Schedules II & IV the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994. This offers them protection from intentional or reckless disturbance and killing as well as damage and sisrution to the rbeeding site or prevention of access to and egress from a place of shelter or rest.
Erik Paterson, CARG Secretary