Palmate newts are small amphibians living in western Europe. The word palmate is usually used when describing specific types of tree leaves – leaves like maple and oak which have several connected lobes. If you look at the newt in the picture above, you can see that the hind feet are webbed, thus the word palmate in their name. The feet almost look like a maple leaf! Only the hind feet are webbed, only the males have the webbing, and, surprisingly, they are only webbed during breeding season. Because of this, males and females are not hard to tell apart during breeding season. When it is not mating season, you can tell the difference between the males and females because of the two ridges on the male’s back. They might not be easy to find, but you should be able to see a small ridge on each side of the newt’s back in the picture above. Newts in general are mostly aquatic, but they can also spend some time on land.
Palmate newts can look a lot like smooth newts. They are both about the same size, and especially the female palmate newts (which do not have the ridges mentioned above) can be hard ti tell apart from smooth newts. One difference is their throats. Smooth newts have spotted or speckled throats, and while palmate newts are spotted or speckled every else, they are not so on their throats.
Male palmate newts are slightly smaller than the females. The average adult is about 3.5 inches (9 cm) in length, although this can range from 2.6 to 4.3 inches (6.5 to 11 cm). This is pretty small, in fact, palmate newts are the smallest amphibians in the United Kingdom. They are also one of the smallest newt species in the world!
When in the water, palmate newts eat many things including zooplankton (plankton consisting of animals instead of plants), freshwater shrimp, and small aquatic invertebrates known as hoglice. While capturing aquatic animals, they use their tiny teeth to hold on to prey. On land, their sticky tongue helps them catch several different types of invertebrates. These include insects, slugs, and worms. Despite being such small newts, palmate newts are able to eat frog eggs. This may not seem extremely hard (after all, there is just a jelly-like coating around the eggs), but this layer is hard to bite through. By thrashing their tail as they bite, these newts are able to get enough leverage to break the protective barrier.
Habitat and range
As you can tell from the range map below, the palmate newt lives mainly in north-western Europe. Although they prefer still water such as ponds, puddles, and lakes, these newts will also sometimes inhabit slowly running water. Bodies of water with safe terrestrial habitat nearby for breeding are best. Forests, gardens, and farmland all serve this purpose well.
Status and threats
The IUCN Redlist classifies the palmate newt as Least Concern. Despite this, in 1981, Great Britain prohibited the sale and commercial exchange of palmate newts. The last time IUCN assessed this species’ status was in 2004, and it is thought that they might be slightly less common than they were back then. because they are so small, these newts have many predators, even as adults. Snakes, ducks, water birds (such as kingfishers), and great crested newts can consume grown up palmate newts. Young can fall prey to water beetles, dragonfly nymphs, fish, and larger amphibians. Habitat loss is one of the main threats facing this species. It has been estimated that in the last one hundred years up to seventy percent of Great Britain’s marshes have been destroyed. Many pools of water that remain have been polluted by agricultural chemicals.
These amphibians, like many, hibernate during the winter. They do stay awake longer than many, however, staying up until November and often waking up by February. Although dry land provides the best places to spend the winter (under rocks, logs, etc.), adults may sometimes hibernate in the water. When doing this, these newts use their skin to absorb oxygen.
Reproduction and young
Palmate newt mating starts in February. Males usually reach the breeding sites first so they can lay claim to good territory. Once the females come, the males swim in front of the females, fanning their tails and waving them vigorously. After mating, from February to May, the females lay a few eggs each day, adding up to from 200 to 300 eggs!
Two to three weeks after the eggs are laid, they hatch to form juveniles that are just about 0.3 inches (8 mm) long! Within 6 to 9 weeks after hatching, the juvenile metamorphose so they are able to breathe air. After their second year, palmate newts are ready to mate. These animals can live up to ten years in the wild – remarkably long for such a small creature.
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- The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Animals of the World: An expert reference guide to 840 amphibians, reptiles and mammals from every continent*
- Palmate newt – Paul Wilkins
- Palmate newt range – Achim Raschka
- Mystery animal – Tomfriede
*Next Door Zoo is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com.