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Triturus carnifex, the Italian Crested Newt, is a large newt, with females measuring up to 180 mm and males up to 150 mm in total length (Arnold 2002). The subspecies T. carnifex carnifex is dark brown with black spots, and has an orange to orange-yellow belly with large rounded dark spots. In contrast, the subspecies T. carnifex macedonicus has smaller and more dense dark belly spots (Edgar and Bird 2006). Triturus carnifex adult females may have a bright yellow vertebral stripe (Arnold 2002). As in other crested newt species, T. carnifex males develop a pronounced dorsal crest during breeding season (Arnold 2002).
Triturus carnifex is one of four species within the crested newt species complex (T. carnifex, T. cristatus, T. dobrogicus, T. karelinii). It is most similar in appearance and size to Triturus cristatus, the Great Crested Newt. Triturus carnifex can be distinguished by a broader tail base, larger legs, and smoother skin than T. cristatus (Edgar and Bird 2006). In addition, T. carnifex has 15 vertebrae that bear ribs, while T. cristatus has 16 rib-bearing vertebrae (Arntzen and Wallace 1999).