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These miniature dinosaurs are in danger of becoming a rare sight in Britain.

A great crested newt, brown with dark brown spots, a large thick tail, and a raised crest along its back, swims through underwater plants.

Three types of newt make their home along our ponds, lakes and canals, but increasing urbanisation and loss of habitat have reduced the areas available for these ancient amphibians to live in and breed. This has had an impact on populations across Europe.

Great crested newts are the largest and rarest newts found in Britain. The palmate and smooth newt are comparatively common, with evidence suggesting they're present along all of our waterways. However, nocturnal newts remain in hiding under stones or logs during the day and are not often seen.

Smooth Newt

Newts have a similar life cycle to frogs and toads, hibernating through the winter months and returning to breeding ponds in the spring.

Like other amphibians, they are terrestrial (living on land) for parts of the year and use the waterways mainly during the breeding season. A healthy population of 250 great crested newts would need at least one hectare of terrestrial habitat, as well as a suitable still-standing breeding pond, to survive for any length of time.

Newt facts


Great crested newt - dark, warty skin speckled with white spots. Undersides are yellow or orange. Males have a high, jagged crest running along their backs (especially pronounced during the breeding season).

Smooth newt - pale brown or olive green with spotted throats.

Palmate newt - olive green or light brown skin with orange bellies and spot-free throats


Great crested - maximum 17cm

Smooth - 7-11cm

Palmate - 9-10cm


Great crested - maximum 27 years

Smooth - maximum 20 years

Palmate - maximum 10 years

Diet: carnivorous newts will eat anything they can catch, from worms and water snails to other invertebrates and insects

Family: Salamandridae

Family nature guide 2019

Download your free nature guide

Identify footprints and read fascinating facts about the creatures who make their homes along our canals and rivers

Last Edited: 22 February 2021

photo of a location on the canals
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