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Great Crested Newt

Newts are waking up now.  They've spent the winter on dry land, either under a stone, under a log or in a compost heap, and now the mature adult newts will be heading back to their breeding ponds.

The photo shows the rarest of our three native newt species - the Great Crested Newt.  You can recognise the Great Crested Newt by its bumpy skin.  In fact it's often referred to as the "warty newt".

The skin contains special glands which release a foul tasting irritant.  This gives the newt protection from predators which might otherwise eat it.

But foul tasting skin isn't the newts only party trick.  In fact the newts body is packed with surprises.  If they lose an arm or leg they have the abilty to regenerate a new one.  This ability isn't just restricted to limbs either.  Jaws, eyes, hearts, intestines, spinal cords can all be regenerated.  Imagine the possibilities if we could identify the genes that regulate this activity and apply it to our own species.  It gives a whole new definition to the concept of bodybuilding!

Newts are most active at night, so take a torch to a pond after dark to catch the action (note to kids - make sure you get permission from an adult first).

Because of its rarity the Great Crested Newt (and its ponds) have special legal protection.  A licence is required to handle them.

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