Population in the Wild: Unknown
The Danube crested newt (or Triturus dobrogicus) is an amphibian species living in the slow-flowing waters, tributaries and surrounding woodlands of the Danube River. Sides and back of the newts are covered in black and brown skin with white and black mottling, while their belly and throat are coloured bright red and orange with dark patterns. As with all crested newts, the species expresses sexual dimorphism where males have a distinctive spiked crest running down the length of their spine during breeding season. Male newts are 13cm to 15cm long, females are slightly larger measuring up to 18cm in length.
Categorised as near-threatened, the Danube crested newt is now protected across its entire range. It is endangered by human caused habitat destruction, often by building dams or polluting bodies of water. Additionally, they are known to hybridise with other newt species, which can contribute to a decline in pure populations.
Danube crested newts do not have specific social requirements and mainly live solitarily. Provided there is enough space and food, they tolerate other individuals nearby.
Adult Danube crested newts will move to breeding areas in the period around February to March. These breeding areas are likely to be a stretch of slow-moving or still water close to where they themselves hatched. During courtship, male newts are likely to be aggressive towards each other. Males will track females and engage in a courtship display once they have reached a suitable area of open, flat ground. These courtship dances involve tail movements and lashes, arching of the back and crest waving.
After a successful mating ritual, the male deposits a spermatophore on the ground and leads the female to it; who will accept it into her cloaca to fertilize her eggs internally. Several days later, she will begin laying eggs onto the leaves of aquatic plants, which she will fold around the eggs to protect them. This process can take up to 2 weeks, over this timeframe she will lay around 200 eggs.
2 to 3 weeks later the larvae will hatch from the eggs. They will remain in their aquatic larval form for 2 to 4 months before metamorphosing. Having metamorphosed into their adult form, the newts will move to sheltered, damp areas on land, usually in nearby woodland. They reach sexual maturity at the age of 2 to 3 years old, and will breed once per year during their aquatic phase.
Zoopedia Fun Facts
- The Danube crested newt is the smallest of all crested newt species.
- When threatened, Danube crested newts assume a defensive posture to expose their brightly coloured underside and secrete toxins; this is known as the Unkenreflex.
- Like other newts, Danube crested newts are strictly carnivorous from the moment of hatching.
- Danube crested newts spend over half of the year in the water to breed and hunt, and the remaining months of the year on land; as such they have the longest aquatic phase of all crested newts.
- Danube crested newts already existed before the last glacial period and, like other crested newt species, likely survived in small refugia to then spread to their current ranges again.
- The Danube Crested Newt was the second non-frog amphibian to be added to Planet Zoo, the first being the Fire Salamander, and the third being the Axolotl.