AppearanceThe Iberian ribbed newt has tubercles running down each side. Through these, its sharp ribs can puncture. The ribs act as a defense mechanism, causing little harm to the newt. This mechanism could be considered as a primitive and rudimentary system of inoculation, but is completely harmless to humans. At the same time as pushing its ribs out the newt begins to secrete poison from special glands on its body. The poison coated ribs create a highly effective stinging mechanism, injecting toxins through the thin skin in predator’s mouths. The newt’s effective immune system and collagen coated ribs mean the pierced skin quickly regrows without infection.
In the wild, this amphibian grows up to 30 cm , but rarely more than 20 cm in captivity. Its color is dark gray dorsally, and lighter gray on its ventral side, with rust-colored small spots where its ribs can protrude. This newt has a flat, spade-shaped head and a long tail, which is about half its body length. Males are more slender and usually smaller than females. The larvae have bushy external gills and usually paler color patterns than the adults.
''P. waltl'' is far more aquatic-dwelling than other European tailed amphibians. Though they are quite able to walk on land, most rarely leave the water, living usually in ponds, cisterns, and ancient village wells that were common in Portugal and Spain in the past. They prefer cool, quiet, and deep waters, where they feed on insects, worms, and tadpoles.
StatusThe IUCN listed the Iberian ribbed newt as Near Threatened in its 2006 Red List. It received this listing because its wild populations appear to be in significant decline due to widespread habitat loss and the effects of invasive species, thus making the species close to qualifying for Vulnerable. Previously, in 2004, the species had been listed as Least Concern, the lowest ranking. This species is generally threatened through loss of aquatic habitats through drainage, agrochemical pollution, the impacts of livestock , eutrophication, domestic and industrial contamination, golf courses, and infrastructure development. It has largely disappeared from coastal areas in Iberia and Morocco close to concentrations of tourism and highly populated areas such as Madrid's outskirts. Introduced fish such as the Largemouth bass and crayfish are known to prey on the eggs and larvae of this species, and are implicated in its decline. Mortality on roads has been reported to be a serious threat to some populations.
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