We have common smooth newts (Lissotriton vulgaris) in our garden pond. The story of our first newt can be found here. I’ve also written about newts here and here.
Newts are amphibians of the Salamander family (Salamandridae) and are found in North America, Northern Europe and western Asia and Russia. They start life in water and develop into juveniles that live on land, when they are known as efts, mentioned in ‘The Water-Babies’ by Charles Kingsley – ‘ . . .these efts are nothing else but the water-babies . . .’
One of their most intriguing characteristics is their ability to regenerate lost or damaged limbs and organs. Scientists have studied this regeneration for decades. Humans can regenerate liver tissue but that is all.
As adults newts may be fully or semi-aquatic. Terrestrial newts return to the water each year to breed, generally during June and July. The fertilised female lays 7 to 12 single eggs each day and usually places them on the leaves of pond plants. The leaves are often folded over and stuck to the eggs to protect them. One female may lay 400 eggs in the breeding season.
The eggs hatch in about three weeks and the tadpoles eat algae, small invertebrates and other tadpoles. They absorb oxygen directly from the water through feathery gills. After ten weeks they have metamorphosed into air-breathing efts with lungs. They are capable of reproduction at three years.
On a quiet summer day it is possible to hear a ‘popping’ sound as a newt comes to the pond surface for air. It is always a cause for delight when newts are seen – they seem to be shy, retiring creatures and with their olive green or khaki colouring they are well camouflaged in a pond busy with other, more readily spotted inhabitants and habitués.