Southern marbled newt (Triturus pygmaeus)

Southern marbled newt
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Southern marbled newt fact file

Southern marbled newt description

GenusTriturus (1)

The southern marbled newt (Triturus pygmaeus) is a very distinctive amphibian with a fine network of markings covering its body (3). The skin on the upperparts is bright green with black spotting. There are differences in appearance between populations, with individuals from areas in the south of the southern marbled newt’s range having much paler colouration. The underside of the southern marbled newt is creamy-yellow or greyish, also with a pattern of black spots (2) (3) (4). The skin of all newts is flexible and usually moist (3) (5).

 The long, flattened tail of the southern marbled newt is well developed, enabling it to swim (5).

Also known as
pygmy marbled newt.
Triturus marmoratus pygmaeus.
Tritón Pigmeo.
Length: up to 14 cm (2)

Southern marbled newt biology

The reproductive season of the southern marbled newt is between October and March or April (2). Like many other species in the genus Triturus, breeding begins with a courtship display, with the male southern marbled newt raising its tail and waving the tip, encouraging the female to snap at it (8). The male then releases a spermatophore which is taken into the cloaca of the female, fertilising the eggs inside the female’s body (9).

The southern marbled newt lays 100 to 150 eggs (2), with the female depositing a single egg at a time, usually over a period of around 2 months (7) (9), over an average period of two months (7). The female lays each egg within the leaf of an underwater plant, subsequently folding the leaf with the hind legs to attach and support the egg (6) (9) (10). The eggs of amphibians are coated with a protective jelly and, once hatched, newt larvae are usually carnivorous and receive no further parental care. After a period of development, the larvae will metamorphose into the adult form (5) (10).

As in other amphibians, the skin of the southern marbled newt is important in respiration. Oxygen is taken in through the skin and carbon dioxide is released, creating a constant need for moist environments to allow gas exchange (5).

All newts are carnivorous and take small invertebrates such as insects, slugs, snails and worms (5).


Southern marbled newt range

The southern marbled newt is endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, where it can be found in central and southern Portugal and southern Spain (1) (3) (4).


Southern marbled newt habitat

The southern marbled newt is found in broadleaf woodland, grassland, traditional farmland and cork tree forest (1) (6). Breeding, reproduction and larval development occur in water, taking place in small ditches, temporary or permanent ponds, lagoons, abandoned quarries, drinking troughs and wells (1) (2) (7). These stagnant or slow moving water bodies can occur at elevations between sea level and 1,450 metres (1) (6).


Southern marbled newt status

The southern marbled newt is classified as Near Threatened (NT) on the IUCN Red List (1).

IUCN Red List species status – Near Threatened


Southern marbled newt threats

The main threat to the southern marbled newt is habitat loss and fragmentation, which is widespread throughout the majority of its range (1) (2). The extraction of ground water has led to the loss of temporary ponds, one of the most vital breeding habitats for this species (1) (3). The remaining ponds have been subject to pollution from agriculture and introduction of non-native species such as crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and sunfish (Lepomis gibbosus), which may predate the southern marbled newt (1) (3) (6).

Water bodies have also been lost due to urban development, especially around Madrid, where many populations of the southern marbled newt have been eliminated during expansion of the city (1) (3).


Southern marbled newt conservation

The southern marbled newt is present in a number of protected areas within its range, including Parque Nacional de Cabañeros and Parque Nacional de Doñana in Spain. It is also thought to occur within some protected areas in Portugal. There have been attempts to reintroduce the southern marbled newt in areas surrounding Madrid (1).

The southern marbled newt is listed on Annex III of the Bern Convention, which aims to conserve wild flora and fauna and their natural habitats (11), and there is also national legislation in Spain protecting this species (1).


Find out more

Find out more about the conservation of the southern marbled newt and other amphibian species:



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Feeding on flesh.
A common cavity into which the reproductive, digestive and urinary systems open in birds, reptiles, amphibians, most fish and some primitive mammals.
A species or taxonomic group that is only found in one particular country or geographic area.
The fusion of gametes (male and female reproductive cells) to produce an embryo, which grows into a new individual.
A category used in taxonomy, which is below ‘family’ and above ‘species’. A genus tends to contain species that have characteristics in common. The genus forms the first part of a ‘binomial’ Latin species name; the second part is the specific name.
Animals with no backbone, such as insects, crustaceans, worms, molluscs, spiders, cnidarians (jellyfish, corals, sea anemones) and echinoderms.
Immature stage in an animal’s lifecycle, after it hatches from an egg and before it changes into the adult form. Larvae are typically very different in appearance to adults; they are able to feed and move around but are usually unable to reproduce.
An abrupt physical change from the larval to the adult form.
A capsule or mass of sperm transferred from a male to a female during mating, for example in certain insects, arthropods and cephalopods (octopuses and squids).


  1. IUCN Red List (November, 2011)
  2. Raffaëlli, J. (2007) Les Urodèles du Monde. Penclen Édition, France. Available at:
  3. Themudo, G.E. (2010) Newts in time and space: the evolutionary history of Triturus newts at different temporal and spatial scales. Ph.D. Thesis, Leiden University, The Netherlands.
  4. Gibson, C. (2010) Wild Animals. Dorling Kindersley Publishing, London.
  5. Halliday, T. and Adler, K. (2002) The New Encyclopedia of Reptiles and Amphibians. Oxford University Press, Oxford.
  6. Ortiz-Santaliestra, M.E., Marco, A.,Fernández-Benéitez, M.J. and Lizana, M. (2007) Effects of ammonium nitrate exposure and water acidification on the dwarf newt: the protective effect of oviposition behaviour on embryonic survival. Aquatic Toxicology, 85: 251-257.
  7. Themudo, G.E. and Arntzen, J.W. (2007) Newts under siege: range expansion of Triturus pygmaeus isolates populations of its sister species. Diversity and Distributions, 13: 580-586.
  8. Wells, K.D. (2007) The Ecology and Behaviour of Amphibians. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.
  9. Díaz-Paniagua, C. (1989) Oviposition behaviour of Triturus marmoratus pygmaeus. Journal of Herpetology, 23: 159-163.
  10. Miaud, C. (1995) Oviposition site selection in three species of European newts (Salamandridae) genus Triturus. Amphibia-Reptilia, 16: 265-272.
  11. Council of Europe: Bern Convention (November, 2011)

Image credit

Southern marbled newt  
Southern marbled newt

© Eduardo Marabuto

Eduardo Marabuto


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