The great crested newt lives only in Europe. Females, which are larger than males, can reach 7 inches in length, making these stout-bodied amphibians the continent’s largest newts.
The great crested newt is also known as the warty newt because it has skin that is covered in small bumps. The skin contains glands that secrete a milky, acrid-smelling substance to dissuade predators. Its other common name derives from the dramatic, jagged crest that males develop along their backs during the spring breeding season.
These newts are generally dark colored on top and orange or yellow with black spots underneath. They also have white speckles on their flanks and a large, vertically flattened tail that bears a white streak down the side.
Great crested newts are nocturnal and are voracious eaters, feeding on worms, slugs, and insects on land, and tadpoles and mollusks in water. They are more terrestrial than most newts, but must remain near bodies of fresh water to keep their skin moist.
These newts spend a significant portion of their lives in hibernation, usually from around October to March of each year. On a rainy night in March, they awaken and trek back to the pond where they hatched to mate.
Females lay from 200 to 300 eggs, but only about half develop into tadpoles. Tadpoles emerge from their eggs in about 21 days and feed on small insects like water fleas and tiny worms. Warty newts are extremely long-lived, with some exceeding 16 years of age. Like all newts, they can regrow body parts if necessary, but that ability diminishes as they age.
Some great crested newt populations are in decline. They and their habitats are protected under European law.