- English: Pygmy (Southern Marbled) Newt
- Scientific: Triturus pygmaeus (Triturus marmoratus)
- Spanish: Tritón pigmeo (Tritón jaspeado)
- French: Triton pygmée
- German: Zwerg-Marmormolch
- Italian: Tritone pigmeo
- Portuguese: Tritão-marmoreado-pigmeu
The Pygmy (marbled) newt – Triturus pygmaeus – Tritón pigmeo was traditionally considered a subspecies of the marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus), although recent studies have shown that morphological and genetic differences between the two, are significant enough to be considered distinct species.
the pygmy newt has a total length of about 13cm (5 inches), a base colour of deep green mottled with black/brown blotches spread over the body.
The head is flattened, with a broad and rounded snout. The eyes have a black round pupil and gold iris. Their limbs are long, front feet with 4 digits and 5 on the hind feet, without webbing. The tail, which is longer in males, is flattened laterally and ends in a point.
The females are larger and have an orange or yellowish vertebral line also seen in sub-adults of both sexes. In mating season the male has a tall, upright dorsal crest extending along the tail, during its land living phase this is reduced to a dark spinal ridge.
Habitat and diet
This newt occurs only in southern Portugal and southwestern Spain. The Douro and Tagus rivers form a narrow, northern border to its range where it is then replaced by Triturus marmoratus (marbled newt)
Its natural habitats are woodlands of oak and cork oak, Mediterranean scrub, near ponds, wells, slow streams and irrigation pools. It is crepuscular and nocturnal.
When living away from water they take refuge under rocks, logs and leaf litter.
The diet of adults is based on insects and their larvae, isopods, annelids and arachnids. The larvae hunt small insect larvae, crustaceans and larvae of other amphibians.
The breeding season begins with the autumn rains, around November. After a courtship display worthy of being watched, the female will pick up a packet of sperm (spermatophore) that the male leaves close to her and after several days she deposits between 150 and 350 fertilised eggs. These are individually attached to aquatic plants. The larvae hatch in around 10-15 days, depending on water temperature, and normally complete their development before the end of May.
Its main defence mechanism, like many amphibians, is the production of a milky toxic secretion through the skin.
As with many amphibians, habitat is being degraded by river pollution and the loss of temporary water bodies through land drainage. The introduction of crayfish and non-native fish also has a negative impact on populations. For these reasons, the International Union for Conservation of Nature has assessed its status as being “near threatened”.
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