"Temporary Ponds: a natural habitat to be protected!"

Amphibians

> Iberian ribbed newt

Pleurodeles waltl


The Iberian ribbed newt is the largest amphibian caudata of the Iberian fauna, varying its total length between 15 and 25 cm. Exceptionally, it can reach 30cm.

The look of this newt seems primitive or somewhat grotesque. Overall, it is flattened, with large, broad head and rounded contours. The eyes are small and prominent, situated in lateral position. The back is rough, has no crest and the colouration is greyish, greenish or brownish, usually with dark spots. The belly is light, with yellowish, whitish, orange or greyish tones. The tail is flattened laterally and slightly larger than the body, with a small ridge, sometimes orange.

 Pleurodeles waltl - Photo of Vasco Flores Cruz in Anfíbios e Répteis de Portugal

In the flanks it has a row of seven or nine glandular protrusions of orange colour that coincide with the ends of the ribs. Is from these protuberance that the ribs can came out. This ability is defensive and is only used when the animal realizes that it is in danger.

Glandular Protuberances of Pleurodeles waltl - Photograph of Vasco Flores Cruz in Amphibians and Reptiles of Portugal.

Sexual Dimorphism

Males have a broader and crested tail higher than females, especially in the breeding season. During this period, males exhibit the most prominent cloacal region, more robust forelegs and develop dark bridal callosities on the fingers and the insides of the limbs to better "grab" the female.

Behaviour

Adult individuals have aquatic habits but during the night or at the end of the day. During the day they remain in the deepest areas of the ponds, coming to the surface only when they need to breathe. When the bodies of water begin to dry, they move to other nearby ponds and may pass through periods of stationary buried deep in the ponds or under the rocks.

Reproduction

The breeding season varies between September and July, depending on the geographic region of its distribution. On the southwest coast of Portugal it goes from the end of winter and is full in the spring.

Mating occurs within water, after a complex courtship, the male swims under the female and grabs its front limbs, a position that can be maintained for hours. Before depositing the spermatophore, the male releases one of the female legs and writhes until the contact between the cloacal is achieved.

After a few days the female releases between 150 and 800 eggs in small masses of 9 to 20 units in aquatic plants, submerged stones or in the bottom of the ponds. Hatching of the larvae occurs after 10 to 15 days, remaining in the water for about 4 months until they reach metamorphosis. The larvae can be observed from March to April, distinguished by the peculiar flattened head.

 Larvae of Pleurodeles waltl - Photo of Vasco Flores Cruz in Anfíbios e Répteis de Portugal

The longevity of this species exceeds 10 years.

Feeding

Adult feeding consists of insect larvae, crustaceans and other aquatic invertebrates, amphibian larvae (including their own species), dead animals and newts. They locate their prey mainly through smell. The larvae feed mainly on small aquatic insects and crustaceans (cladocerans and copepods).

Both adults and larvae of this species can be caught by water snakes, Louisiana-red-swamp-crayfish and some fish (if they exist in the water bodies chosen).

As the main defence mechanism, they can arch the body, protruding its costelal protuberances, through which segregate toxic substances.

They live in very diverse places and have a great flexibility every year to change between the terrestrial phase and the aquatic phase, depending on the meteorological conditions and the availability of water in the temporary aquatic environments.

The aquatic phase is triggered with the first autumnal rains. The terrestrial phase occurs after the breeding season, being little known. At that time it is assumed that this salamander is hidden buried or under stones.

Can withstand moderate levels of water contamination.

It occurs in most of the Iberian Peninsula with Mediterranean climate influence and also in the north of Morocco.

The species is widely distributed in the south of Portugal in various aquatic environments, usually with a higher content of water turbidity, whether natural or artificial, and can withstand some organic pollution.

Pedro Beja, Jaime Bosch, Miguel Tejedo, Paul Edgar, David Donaire-Barroso, Miguel Lizana, Iñigo Martínez-Solano, Alfredo Salvador, Mario García-París, Ernesto Recuero Gil, Tahar Slimani , El Hassan El Mouden, Philippe Geniez, Tahar Slimani. 2009. Pleurodeles waltl. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T59463A11926338. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009.RLTS.T59463A11926338.en. Downloaded on 05 December 2016.

Although it is a numerous specie, it has suffered with the competitive and predatory threats from exotic and invasive species, such as the red swamp crawfish (Procambarus clarkii) and American fishes ().

Despite being a large species, it has suffered from the competitive and predatory threats posed by invasive alien species such as Louisiana-red-swamp-crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and American fish (e.g. pumpkinseed sunfish, chameleon cichlid, eastern mosquitofish).

On the IUCN Red List, this species has the status of Near Threatened.

Pedro Beja, Jaime Bosch, Miguel Tejedo, Paul Edgar, David Donaire-Barroso, Miguel Lizana, Iñigo Martínez-Solano, Alfredo Salvador, Mario García-París, Ernesto Recuero Gil, Tahar Slimani , El Hassan El Mouden, Philippe Geniez, Tahar Slimani. 2009. Pleurodeles waltl. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species 2009: e.T59463A11926338. http://dx.doi.org/10.2305/IUCN.UK.2009.RLTS.T59463A11926338.en. Downloaded on 05 December 2016.


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