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(tritons), a genus of tailed amphibians of the family Salamandridae. The body measures approximately 18 cm in length, and the tail has a cutaneous border and is laterally compressed. Ten species are encountered in Europe and adjacent regions of Asia; they inhabit plains and mountains, living mainly in forests. They winter on land, mainly in rodents’ holes, under stones, in rotting tree stumps, and under fallen trees. In spring tritons move to shallow, usually stagnant bodies of water, where they lay their eggs. At this time a high, frequently ridged crest grows on the back and tail of the males, and the body acquires a bright coloring.
Fertilization is internal. The male casts into the water sperma-tophores (gelatinous masses 3–4 mm in size containing a large number of spermatozoa), which the female seizes with the edges of the cloaca. She then deposits approximately 150 fertilized eggs in small batches. The larvae metamorphose into tritons three to five months later and sometimes the following year.
In water, tritons feed on small crustaceans, mollusks, aquatic insects, frog’s eggs, and the like, while on land they feed on slugs, spiders, earthworms, insects, and other organisms. Tritons are used as laboratory animals. Five species occur in the USSR, including T. vulgaris and T. cristatus. Some other tailed amphibians are also called tritons.
REFERENCESTerent’ev, P. V., and S. A. Chernov. Opredelitel’ presmykaiu-shchikhsia izemnovodnykh, 3rd ed. Moscow, 1949.
Triton iaksolotl’. Moscow, 1952.
Zhizn zhivotnykh, vol. 4, part 2. Moscow, 1969.
I. S. DAREVSKII