This selection of Irish animals, native or introduced, is taken from the Appletree Press title Animals of Ireland. There will be a number of extracts from the book in coming months. The book contains highly detailed full colour illustrations to complement the detailed explanatory text.
Only one species of newt is found in Ireland (there are three in Britain) which should simplify identification. However, being amphibians, newts spend the summer in fresh water and hibernate in winter, usually beneath stones. In this state they have been mistaken for lizards but they do not have the hard shiny and scaly skin of the latter. They are also smaller and have a vertically flattened tail which is 'finned' along its length on both sides. Their size is up to 10 cm (4 inches).
The female is light brownish, paler underneath, and the larger male is greyish, profusely spotted with black. In spring when the pair have taken up residence in a pond, disused well or other freshwater habitat, the male develops a bright orange belly flush with blue and red markings on the tail. A long wavy crest along the back is used to full effect in an elaborate underwater courtship display.
Eggs are laid individually in a folded pondweed leaf; these hatch out into tadpoles complete with gills for underwater breathing. This phase lasts well into autumn when, with the adults, they leave the water to begin the terrestrial phase of their life cycle.
Other Frogs, Amphibians or Reptiles from Animals of Ireland include:
Common Frog |
Natterjack Toad |
Viviparous Lizard |