Danube Crested Newt

Triturus dobrogicus

These primeval-looking creatures inhabit smaller bodies of water in the National Park. Although they may look like little dragons, these amphibians are in fact one of the most edifying and interesting examples of biodiversity in the Danube wetlands.

Description
The Danube Crested Newt is brownish to black on the top, often with a pattern of dark spots. The coarse skin on the flanks has a trace of whitish granules; belly is orange-red with dark spots. Like the Crested Newt, this species also has a dark throat. It may reach a total body length of up to 130 mm. In the water, males exhibit a markedly spiked dorsal crest which extends to the base of the tail. There is a mother-of-pearl coloured band on the middle of the tail on both sides. Females have no dorsal crest. Females tend to be somewhat longer than males; for males, the length of the forelimbs is 38-52% of the total distance between the beginning of the front and hind limbs; for females it is 34-45%.

Distribution
Danube wetlands, from eastern Austria to the Black Sea. Formerly wide-ranging across Austria, the Donau-Auen National Park is one of the only remaining habitats in Austria today.

Endangerment and Conservation Status

The species is endangered due to destruction of habitats in and around wetlands, and generally, the loss of small(er) bodies of water. Because individuals now tend to be isolated, the gene pool is not being restocked; there is no replacement should a population die out.

Behaviour
This amphibian spends most of the year in or in close proximity to the water. Migration to hibernation sites begins in late autumn when the animals search the area for suitable quarters to over-winter such as cavities used by small animals, grooves or cracks in the earth or pieces of wood. The mating rituals are especially interesting; they are similar to those of the Common Newt and can be easily observed. The presence of newts is also easy to ascertain on the basis of their clutches: their eggs are wrapped individually in leaves.

Special Characteristics
The Danube Crested Newt will only be seen by very patient visitors. The best chances for glimpsing one is around the stagnant waters of the National Park, inasmuch as these have an ample area of shallow waters and lush underwater vegetation; the animal generally favours sunny places around the water. To see this amphibian, it is recommended to come in late spring, find a quiet sitting place near a pond, and keep your eyes on the shallow waters near the edge.