Species Of The Week Number28: Smooth Newt

I have a pet newt. I call him Tiny. Because he's my newt. haha.

Obviously I haven't really got a pet newt called Tiny, but I have got a pond and its got loads of Smooth Newts in it. I only realised how many by checking the pond with a torch at night. Amazing! Newts are nocturnal and, whilst I might occasionally come across one when doing some daytime pond maintenance, its a complete revelation at night. My pond is about 2m x 1m and there must be 20 or so Smooth Newts swimming around.

Now is the breeding season and they are looking their best. The adults have a cute flirtatious mating display involving much tail flapping and spreading of pheromones. Eggs are then laid individually and each is wrapped in the leaves of pond plants. At the end of the summer the new newts - which are now called efts - leave the water with the older adults and spend the winter under logs and rocks nearby. Individual newts can live to an impressive 14 years - we know this as each individual can be identified by the particular pattern of spots on its belly.

There are two other newt species in the UK, the Palmate Newt and the Great Crested Newt. I don't think we have got any of them in the Meanwood - but very happy to be proved wrong.

There are Great Crested Newts close by though. When ecologists surveyed the land before the development of Thorpe Park in East Leeds they had to trap and relocate 20 Great Crested Newts as well as 996 Smooth Newts, 1,189 Toads and 119 Frogs.

There is a Leeds pub called the Fox and Newt on Burley Street. I have sadly failed to find the origin of the name. It used to be called the Rutland Hotel until it was damaged by a gas explosion in the 1920's, causing 24 casualties.

Whilst most newts don't travel more than a kilometre from home, others have gone a bit further. In 1994 some female Japanese Red-bellied Newts even flew into outer space. These 'astronewts' made this giant leap for newt-kind as part of an experiment to see what happened when their eggs were laid in a low gravity environment. Happily they returned alive.

Some newts are very toxic. One man from Oregon swallowed a newt as a drunken bet - as you do. He died. Please don't swallow our Meanwood newts, even if you are drunk.

Publicado el 05 de abril de 2023 por clunym clunym


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