This section is from the book "The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation", by George Abbey. Also available from Amazon: The Balance Of Nature And Modern Conditions Of Cultivation.
The Smooth Newt or Eft (Triton taeniatus or aquaticus) is included in the order Urodela ("tailed") of Amphibians, and in common with all other members of the Amphibians are Caducibranchiate forms, that is, the gills, with which they are provided in early life, disappear on their attaining maturity. The newt is oviparous, that is, producing eggs from which the young are afterwards hatched. It commences life as a tadpole, the larval gills being cast off about the third month of existence, when it breathes by lungs. The larval tail is retained throughout life. The tongue is free, and two rows of teeth are borne on the palate. The front legs appear first in order of development, and possess four toes, the hinder feet being provided with five toes. The male animal is distinguished by a crest or fleshy ridge borne on the back, and is displayed to greatest advantage when in the water. In habits the common or lesser newt is semi-aquatic, frequenting meadows and other damp places in summer, and lives upon small worms, slugs, woodlice, insects and their larvae. It is about 3 in. in length; feeds in water on aquatic insects, larvae, etc.
In winter the common newt is torpid, usually on land.
The Great Water-newt (Triton cristatus), Fig. 57, measures about 6 in. in length when fully grown. It is coloured dark brown on the upper parts, the sides being of a whitish colour, whilst the belly is of an orange colour spotted with black. It is common in our fresh-water pools and ponds, the crest in the male animal being very conspicuous.
Fig. 57. - The Great Water-newt, Male and Female.
The great water-newt feeds upon water insects and larvae, also tadpoles, and on land is similar in its habits to the lesser newt. In winter it is torpid. Many people have a great horror of newts, though they are perfectly harmless. The popular superstition is that a bite of an "eft" causes the loss of the limb bitten, and that cows or other animals drinking from a pond and swallowing an eft are sure to come to an untimely end.