Habitat: Armenia, Georgia, Iraq, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, the Russian Federation, Syria, and Turkey
Status: Least Concern
If ever there was going to be a contender for a real-life water dragon… this Southern Banded Newt (Triturus vittatus ophryticus) might just be it. Adult males reach lengths of anywhere from 6 1/2 inches to 6 3/4 inches which definitely isn’t dragon-size by any means. However, males develop these remarkable crests during breeding season that give it the appearance of a much larger, more impressive creature. Not only does the crest form but the colors on the flanks of the males become much brighter and more vivid as well. Females look nothing like the incredible males – they lack the huge crests and webbing that span the entire length of the males body. They might develop strong but low crests on the tail to aid swimming but that’s about it.
During mating season, males will claim a small piece of territory underwater as their own. Females, who normally live on land with non-breeding males, venture into the water only when ready to find a mate. If a female approaches a male he will try and woo her by oscillating his tails back and forth, bobbing his head, arching his back, and intensely nudge or even bite the lady newt (not entirely sure how that last one wins her over but hey, to each their own…). Eventually I’m sure she gives in to the most impressive displayer and probably the one with the biggest, sexiest crest.