Get to know the Species

Marbled newt

Agile in water but more hesitant on land, this amphibian prefers damp and shady habitats to live and hunt. We are talking about the marbled newt, which can only be found in parts of Portugal, Spain and France. The colouring on its back, which is green with black spots, gives it its name.

With its flattened head and body, and long tail, the marbled newt (Triturus marmoratus) is an amphibian that is native only to certain parts of Portugal, Spain and France, mainly in temperate climes. In Portugal it occurs mainly in the central and northern parts of the country, north of the Tagus River. South of here another species with which it has many similarities, the pygmy marbled newt, is predominant. Triturus pygmaeus was considered a subspecies until 2001.

The adult marbled newt has a rough, granular-looking back with a vivid green colouration, speckled with dark patches and spots distributed over its body. Its belly is light – white, cream or greyish in colour. Like other amphibians, its eyes are positioned prominently on each side of its head. It has strong limbs, ending in four long toes on its front legs and five toes on its hind legs. Its tail is long, the same size as the body and sometimes longer.

The marbled newt’s life is spent both in and out of the water, depending on the time of day and also the stage in its life. While by day this agile swimmer prefers to keep hidden in damp places and stretches of water under rocks and foliage, at night it roams in more open areas on dry land, although it is less resourceful here.

During breeding season however, it is confined to aquatic environments—bodies of water with weak currents, such as ponds, springs, streams, pools, small lakes, or rivers, surrounded by dense vegetation, with the possible presence of rocky cavities where it can hide. The beginning of breeding depends on the weather conditions and the breeding site itself, but generally starts with the first autumn rains, although it may be delayed until February, and extends throughout spring.

The female produces 150 to 400 eggs, which are laid one by one on submerged plant leaves. The small larvae hatch after a few days, feeding on insects, water worms, and also on small crustaceans. The duration of the larval stage is variable, depending on water temperature and available food. Usually, between eight and ten weeks later the young start to breathe through their lungs and are ready to leave the aquatic environment. At this stage, juvenile newts have less pronounced colours than the adults, ranging from dark green, to brown and black.

Their diet includes slugs, snails, insects, worms, freshwater crustaceans, insect larvae, and even amphibians. In the water, their predators include the invasive crayfish (Procambarus clarkii) and the pond perch (Lepomis gibbosus), as well as storks and herons; on land, snakes and carnivorous mammals feed on them.

In Portugal, as in other countries where it is found, its conservation status is classified as being of Least Concern (LC) , according to data from the International Union for the Conservation of Nature. The species is protected by Annex III of the Bern Convention and Annex B-IV of the Habitats Directive. Among the threats it faces are invasive aquatic species that feed on it, water pollution, and the decline in temporary ponds and wetlands, which is aggravated in drought conditions.


Did you know that marbled newts…

  • have several features to distinguish between the sexes: the female is slightly larger and has a yellow or orange stripe along the entire length of its body; the male, on the other hand, has a white stripe on both sides of its tail and develops a dorsal crest along its entire body during mating season, with alternating black and light stripes;
  • although they do not hibernate, they may experience periods of inactivity during winter and the warmer months of the year. Breeding takes place in late winter and spring in small, shady places, including small pools of cool water. Young larvae resemble small fish;
  • have three main differences that distinguish them from pygmy marbled newts (Triturus pygmaeus). The latter is deemed Nearly Threatened (NT), and was only classified as a separate species in 2001, by Spanish researcher Mario García-París: it is bigger and more full-bodied than the “pygmy” (measuring around 16 cmas opposed to 12 cm), has rougher skin, and is more intense in colour. Both species can be found in Portugal and although the pygmy marbled newt lives further south, there are some areas where they live side by side and some recorded cases of interbreeding.
  • are one of four species of newt found in Portugal. Aside from the marbled newt and the pygmy marbled newt, there is also Boscá’s newt (Triturus boscai) and the Palmate newt (Triturus helveticus).

  • Marbled newt

    Triturus marmoratus

  • Genus:


  • Family:


  • Conservation status:

    Least Concern, in Portugal, according to the Red Book of Vertebrates, and internationally, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature’s Red List, although the population is decreasing.

  • Habitat:

    It occurs in habitats that combine freshwater with abundant aquatic vegetation, such as lakes, ponds, reservoirs, bogs, and swamps.

  • Distribution:

    Although considered endemic to the Iberian Peninsula, the marbled newt also occurs naturally in southwestern France, as far west as the Massif Central, and in the northeast as far as the Seine, Loire and Allier rivers. In Portugal, it occurs mainly in the centre and north of the country and in Spain mainly in the north.

  • Height/length:

    Up to 16 centimetres long.

  • Lifespan:

    Exceeds 10 years in the wild and 25 years in captivity.

How do we care for this amphibian?

The marbled newt and the pygmy marbled newt are species found in different forest properties managed by The Navigator Company, including Malcata, Salto Tirso, Arouca, Tâmega, Mogadouro, Quinta de São Francisco, and to the south, in Espirra (Pegões), Monchique, and Chamusca.

As forest areas are one of the preferred habitats of this species, forest management, especially in areas where there are bodies of freshwater, is carried out with the species and their conservation in mind.

In order for the species to find a safe habitat on these properties, protection strips for watercourses and waterholes have been planned and implemented in, for example, areas where forest management operations causing disturbance are prohibited or restricted.

In addition to maintaining the areas and conditions already created for this and other species to thrive, whenever justified the rehabilitation of ponds and the restoration or development of riverside vegetation are carried out, to improve the ecological quality of these habitats.

This was what happened at Quinta de São Francisco, in 2016: the riparian vegetation was restored in order to increase the area’s biodiversity. At the Quinta, the marbled newt thrives in ditches, ponds and lakes which are infested with Louisiana crayfish (Procambarus clarkii). In Espirra, the waterhole has been restored to create the ideal conditions for the species to establish itself.