This species of newt is the largest and also the most endangered in Cumbria, and the UK. Fully-grown adults will be between 11cm and 16cm long. They can be distinguished from the other two species of newt in the county by their rough, black, warty skin and the orange bands around the toes and the belly. During the breeding season the male develops a large, jagged crest on the back and a smaller one on the tail. Females often have an orange line on the back and on the underside of the tail. A pale stripe is often present on the sides of the tail.
During the breeding season this species of newt can be seen in larger bodies of water. It appears to prefer slightly alkaline water, and because of this they are often found in limestone areas or lowlands. Outside the breeding season this species of newt can be found in damp scrubby areas and woodland up to around 200m from the breeding pools.
Newts are predators of invertebrates like worms, slugs and beetles. They emerge on damp night to hunt their prey, which they swallow whole. The aquatic efts are also carnivorous.
Reproduction & hibernation
In the breeding season the male great crested newt, as the name implies, develops a crest along his back and tail. This has spiny edges, unlike the smooth crest of the palmate newt or the wavy crest of the male smooth newt. Males perform complex displays in the water to seduce the female; they show off their crest and colours to females, and if the male is successful, they will mate. Females lay up to 300 individual eggs, each wrapped in the leaf of an aquatic plant. These eggs hatch in around three weeks and the efts metamorphosise in four months, under the right conditions.
Hibernation occurs in the same area as summer is spent in typical newt hibernacula; under logs, stones, or leaf-litter. They return to the ponds in early spring to breed, often a week or so later than the other two species of native newt.