Sexual size and shape dimorphism in two species of newts, Triturus cristatus and T. vulgaris (Caudata: Salamandridae)


*All correspondence to: Department of Technology and Science, Section of Biology, Örebro University, SE-701 82 Örebro, Sweden. E-mail:


Morphometric data from Fennoscandian populations of the crested newt Triturus cristatus and the smooth newt Triturus vulgaris were analysed for the presence of sexual size and shape dimorphism. The data sets included nine body-related and nine head-related measurements and were examined with univariate, bivariate and multivariate methods. Sexual dimorphism was demonstrated in both species. The separation of specimens was highly related to sex. Although the expression of sexual dimorphism differed between the two species, some patterns were shared. These are discussed in terms of evolution of intersexual dimorphism according to models of ecology, fecundity and sexual selection. In multivariate analyses, sexual dimorphism was restricted to body-related variables such as standard length and distance of extremities (with high values for females), contrasting against cloaca and limb-related characters (with high values for males). In both species, the ‘distance of extremities’ measure (i.e. trunk length) was one of the strongest sexually dimorphic traits. No evidence of sexual dimorphism in head morphology was found. The results are interpreted as primarily concordant with theories on fecundity selection. For example, it has been suggested that females with larger trunk volumes increase their reproductive capacity. The fact that males had longer extremities, in relation to other characters measured, could be attributed to sexual selection. Long limbs in male newts may be beneficial for courtship performance. Since head-related characters did not show any patterns of sexual dimorphism, no evidence was found to suggest that male and female crested and smooth newts have adapted to different feeding strategies.