Triton, in Greek and Roman mythology, a marine deity, the son of Poseidon or Neptune and Amphitrite or Celaeno. He had the form of a man above and that of a fish below, and bore a conch-shell trumpet.
I. The proper name of the tailed batrachians of the old genus triton (Laur.), generally called newts or water salamanders; they all belong to the northern hemisphere, and their species are most numerous in North America. The tail is depressed and adapted for swimming in most, though many are not strictly aquatic, but pass much of their life on the land, some visiting the water only during the breeding season; indeed, the distinction into terrestrial and aquatic species is very indefinite, species with either of these habits being found in one genus. In the breeding season, in the spring, the males acquire a finlike fringe along the back and tail and membranous appendages to the toes; the species are difficult to distinguish on account of the varieties of sex, age, and season. Reproduc-tion takes place by means of eggs, which are fecundated before they are deposited, and the young resemble tadpoles in form and gills. The most carefully studied species is the crested triton or water newt of Great Britain (T. palustris, Flem.), about 6 in. long, of which the tail is about two fifths; this species will suffice for the generic description.
The body is naked, but covered with warty tubercles, and with glandular pores behind and over eyes and along sides; toes without nails, four anterior and five posterior; the dorsal and caudal crests separate; tongue slightly free on' sides, and more free and pointed behind; palate with a double longitudinal series of teeth; no parotids nor glands along the back. The smooth-skinned species, without lateral pores and with a continuous dorsal and caudal crest, have been noticed under Eft. The head is flattened, nose rounded, gape large, teeth numerous and small, and the neck hardly distinct from the head and body. It is common in ponds and ditches, and one of the most aquatic of the family, swimming by means of the tail, the legs being turned back against the body; the legs are used as balancers in the water, and for a slow and feeble creeping on land; the skin comes off in shreds in the water, and is swallowed. The eggs are deposited on the leaves of aquatic plants, which are folded around them, one egg to each leaf; the parents resume a terrestrial existence in a few weeks, but the young, born in June or July, remain, according to Bell, without much change till the following spring, when they acquire' legs and leave the water.
In the water they are voracious, feeding on aquatic animals, insects and larvae, the tadpoles of the frog, and even those of their own species. They are noted for their tenacity of life under mutilation and exposure to severe cold, and for the power of reproducing lost parts. They are blackish or light brown above with darker round spots, and bright reddish orange below with round black spots, and the sides dotted with white. - The many-spotted triton of the Atlantic states (T. dorsalis, Harlan; genus notophthalmus, Raf.) is about 4 in. long, of which the tail is half; it is olive or greenish brown above, with a row of circular vermilion spots on each side, and below orange studded with small black dots; eyes prominent, with flame-colored iris; posterior limbs twice as large as anterior; it is eminently aquatic, and dies soon out of water from the drying of the skin; it is torpid only in the severest weather; it is found from Maine to Georgia, forming a very lively and interesting animal for the fresh-water aquarium, and easily obtained.
Several other species occur on the Atlantic coast.
Water Newt (Triton palustris).
A Genus Of Gas-Teropod Mollusks Of The Murex Family, having a conical and elongated shell, spirally convoluted. The T. Variegatum (Lam.), 12 to 16 in. long, from the Indian seas, is the well known sea conch or trumpet of the god Triton; this species, as well as the T. australe (Lam.), is used by the Polynesians as a horn.