Alpine newts in Yorkshire!

Today I visited some ponds and streams in Yorkshire with Carl Corbidge and his daughter Sasha where there are introduced populations of the Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris).

Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris)

This species adapts well to the cool British climate as its natural range on the European continent, especially in the south, consists of cold, mountainous areas which are often covered with snow for many months of the year.  Although in the north of France, the Netherlands, Germany etc they usually inhabit woodland ponds and streams. First we explored a ditch at the edge of a field and found numerous well developed larvae of both the Alpine newt and the Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris). At this time of year the only way to find an adult newt was to lift ground cover, or wait for dark if it was raining, which it wasn’t. Moving on to a small woodland stream we found a few logs and other debris to turn, and luckily I was able to find a nice adult Alpine newt. According to recent studies the Alpine newt has taken over drastically from the two species of native newt found in this area of Yorkshire, however the populations although locally common do not seem to spread too far.

Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris)

Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris)

Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) larvae

Ditch with many larvae of Alpine newt (Mesotriton alpestris) and Smooth newt (Lissotriton vulgaris) (C) Carl Corbidge

By Matt Wilson

2 comments on “Alpine newts in Yorkshire!

  1. Hi Matt

    Congratulations on an excellent blog! Would you consider adding a section on classification, systematics and nomenclature. It is a real problem when apparently new species suddenly appear, often with new common and binomial names which have little connection to the ones that are in the very limited number of popular books on herps such as the Collins guide. Frinstance, when did Lacerta lepida become Timon lepidus? And why?

    Keep up the good work

    Steve

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  2. Hi Steve,
    Thanks for the feedback, I have been considering adding a page which at least covers taxonomy of European herps, but it is rather complicated! For example in recent years a number of subspecies have become their own taxa based on mostly DNA studies, such as the Cretan wall lizard (Podarcis cretensis) which was once as subspecies of Erhard’s wall lizard (Podarcis erhardi). Since I am not a scientist I cannot really argue whether the differences mean it should be regarded as an entirely different species or remain as a subspecies. However, in some instances, as with the Montpellier snakes of which there are now two ‘species’ in Europe I believe these should have remained a subspecies rather than making them into two seperate species as beside the colouration of male snakes, it is exactly the same. But I guess I am only referring to external characteristics, and its ecology etc. But the scientists say some internal differences mean they are a totally different species. Abit complex really…
    Cheers,
    Matt

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