Wednesday 14 August 2013

A new species of Crested Newt from the Balkan and Anatolian Peninsulas.

Newts, Pleurodelinae, are small members of the Salamander Family Salamandridae, found across Eurasia and North America. They undergo full metamorphoses, with a limbless tadpole and four-limber adults, which mat be terrestrial or aquatic in habits, though like all amphibians they cannot tolerate completely dry environments due to their semi-permeable skins. Crested Newts (Triturus) are found across much of Europe and western Asia. They are terrestrial newts, only visiting water to breed, when the males develop large crests that run the lengths of their bodies.

In a paper published in the journal Zootaxa on 28 June 2013, a team of scientists led by Ben Wielstra of the Naturalis Biodiversity Center in Leiden discuss the discovery of a new species of Crested Newt from the western Black Sea region.

The new species is named Triturus ivanbureschi, in honour of the late Ivan Buresch of the Institute of Zoology in Sofia, who was an expert on the Amphibians and Reptiles of the Balkan Peninsula. The species is described from populations already known, but formerly ascribed to the species Triturus karelinii, a name that is now restricted to those populations to the north and east of the Black Sea.

Triturus ivanbureschi is a cryptic species, distinguished from Triturus karelinii on the basis of DNA evidence, though it does have an extra pair of ribs (14 rather than 13), something that is only distinguishable if the Newts are dissected or x-rayed. Wielstra et al. suggest it is likely that Triturus ivanbureschi will be further subdivided with follow up genetic studies of populations. The systematics of Crested Newts have long been problematic, with different species often recognized in different nations, and genetic studies have the potential to resolve many of these problems.

Triturus ivanbureschi, in lateral view. Adult male from Ostar Kamak, Bulgaria. Wielstra et al. (2013).