Silver End Memorial Gardens
Natural History Notes - The Smooth Newt
These gardens support a thriving population of newts.
There are 3 species of newt native to the UK: the Smooth Newt (sometimes called the Common Newt), the Palmate Newt and the most famous, the Great Crested Newt (also called the Warty Newt).
However as yet only the Smooth Newt (Latin name Triturus vulgaris) has been confirmed as resident in the Gardens, albeit in large numbers.
Like most amphibians, the newts only have to return to water to breed, which they do in the Spring, the female laying around 300 individual eggs on aquatic plants, each carefully wrapped in a leaf of pond weed. Like frogs and toads they have a tadpole stage; a newt tadpole is sometimes called an eft (or even a newtpole!) Unlike frogs and toads, the tadpoles of newts develope their front legs before their back legs. Newt efts breathe through external feathery gills which sprout from behind the head.
An adult male Smooth Newt
A Smooth Newt Eft
Full metamorphosis from newly hatched eft to small adult takes around 4 months,the first new adults leaving the water in late June. All newts will then stay out of the water until the next Spring's breeding season - this is the so called terrestrial phase of their annual life cycle. During this time they can spread some distance from the nursery pool and some may colonise new areas. Newts can be found all over the Gardens during the autumn and winter.
They are best left undisturbed: being cold-blooded, if disturbed in autumn or winter they are sluggish and easy prey for hungry bird predators. For their own protection they are primarily active at night, feeding on insects, worms and slugs.
Smooth newts take 4 years to grow to their maximum length of up to 100mm (4 inches). During the third year there is a marked growth in the tail compared to the rest of the body. It is also during this time that males develop more marked colouration than the females, indicating that they have reached sexual maturity: both are dark olive green with a paler, spotted underside but this becomes far more pronounced and colourful in the mature males. Upon reaching this stage of development, the newts are ready to return to the water to mate the following Spring.