Smooth newt Latin name: Triturus vulgarispalmate newt

Length: Up to 10cm

Palmate newt (pictured) Latin name: Triturus helveticus

Length: Up to 8cm

Where: Ponds and other wet places

When: Spring and summer

Newts are the nearest thing we get to dragons – albeit miniature ones. With their fiery orange bellies and long, wavy crests the males look particularly fearsome in the breeding season. They are indeed fierce predators, lurking in the pond weeds ready to pounce on unwary tadpoles – a favourite prey. Despite this they are diligent parents. The female wraps each of her eggs up individually in a leaf of pond weed to keep it safe until it hatches into a newt tadpole.

Palmate and smooth newts are the more common of the three species you can find in the UK. The third is the much rarer great crested newt. Look for them under logs or rocks by ponds and wet flushes, where they hide from their own predators outside the breeding season.

The two species aren’t that easy to tell apart. Palmate newts are smaller – the smallest amphibian in the UK – but this can be hard to gauge unless you see them side by side. Smooth newts have spots on their creamy yellow throats, while palmates are spotless. And palmate newts, as their name suggests, have large webbed feet like palms, especially in the breeding season.They use these to help them to hold on to their mates! Palmate newts also prefer more acid conditions, and softer water, so you are more likely to find them on moorland and bogs.

Find out more at:

Amphibian and Reptile Conservation Trust

Any natural place contains an infinite reservoir of information, and therefore the potential for inexhaustible new discoveries.

Richard Louv, Last Child in the Woods