Vomerine tooth series almost parallel anteriorly and widely divergent posteriorly. Tail slightly longer, equal or slightly shorter than body with head. Limbs and digits long; the third finger sometimes longer than the forearm and the fourth toe longer than the thigh. Females have relatively shorter limbs and toes than males. Skin almost smooth or slightly granular. In the terrestrial phase, the dorsal surface is reddish. In the aquatic phase, the dorsal and lateral surfaces bronze-olive or olive-brown, with small dark points on the back and a light band on flanks bordered with dark stripes. The belly is yellow to orange, without pattern. During the breeding season, middorsal and caudal crest of adult males is notched and very high (up to 30 mm), yellowish or brownish, with dark vertical stripes. During this season, the male's tail is covered with dark spots from above and with blue and/or greenish spots from the sides and below.
The deepest record is 400 m below sea level in one cave in the North Caucasus.
The northern banded newt (Ommatotriton ophryticus) is a species of newt in the family Salamandridae. It is found in northeastern Turkey and western Caucasus in Georgia, Armenia, and southern Russia.
Ommatotriton ophryticus has been considered subspecies of Ommatotriton vittatus, but in 2005 Litvinchuk and colleagues raised it to full species status. They also described a new subspecies under this taxon, Triturus ophryticus nesterovi, now recognized as a separate species Ommatotriton nesterovi.
The tail is about the same length as the body and head. The limbs and digits are long, more so in males. Skin is almost smooth to slightly granular. During the terrestrial phase, the dorsum is reddish. During the aquatic phase, the dorsal and lateral surfaces are bronze-olive or olive-brown; there are small dark points on the back and a light band on flanks bordered with dark stripes. The belly is immaculate yellow to orange. During the breeding season, adult males develop very high and notched middorsal and caudal crest; the colouration is yellowish or brownish, with dark vertical stripes. Furthermore, their tails are covered with dark spots from above and with blue and/or greenish spots elsewhere.
Ommatotriton ophryticus occurs mostly higher than 1,200 m (3,900 ft) above sea level. It typically lives in coniferous, mixed, and deciduous forests, up to subalpine meadows. Reproduction takes places in a large range of water bodies, from temporary ponds to lakes. Hibernation generally takes place on land, although individuals in breeding colours have been found in water as early as January. The terrestrial habitat may be relatively arid.
Ommatotriton ophryticus can be locally common, but it is sporadically distributed over much of its range. It suffers from habitat loss caused forest destruction, dam construction, destruction of wetlands, overgrazing by cattle, urbanization, and pollution. Also predation by introduced raccoons (Procyon lotor) is a major threat. It is also collected for pet trade.
The species is distributed in the basin of Black Sea, the northern margin of the range runs in Russia from the west to east, approximately along the line: Apsheronsk and Maikop districts of the Krasnodar Region - upstream of Kyafar River - Teberdinskii Nature Reserve - Prielbrusie National Park in Kabardino-Balkaria (ca. 42.5oE). To the south from the Main Caucasian Ridge, the margin runs in Georgia from the Black Sea coast along the line: Gumista Nature Reserve in the Republic of Abkhazia- Kazbegi Nature Reserve - Telavi Town - Lagodekhi Town (41o50'N, 46o17'E: the easternmost locality), then south-westwards to Tbilisi - north of Alaverdi District in Armenia - Didi Mitrabi in Georgia, and then to Turkey (the most western locality is Trabzon).
The newt lives generally higher than 1200 m above sea level, mainly in coniferous, mixed and deciduous forests up to subalpine meadows. The terrestrial habitat may be quite arid, especially in the Mediterranean part of the species range.
In the North Caucasus, the population density reaches 179 specimens per 1 m3 of water. In the center of its range, the species is common or locally numerous, whereas peripheral populations are usually small and isolated from the main part of the range. In general, the species abundance gradually decreases eastwards and northwards, perhaps as a result of a decrease in moisture. In many sites of the Transcaucasia, the population density of T. ophryticus exceeds that of the other syntopic newts, T. vulgaris lantzi and T. karelinii.
The daily activity pattern in T. vittatus is similar to that of other Triturus species. Hibernation generally occurs on land. However, males and females with nuptial coloration were found at the beginning of January in a spring (Krasnodar Region in the North Caucasus). In the Caucasus, the newts come to hibernacula in September - October. Hibernation ends in February - March at low elevations, and in April-May in the highlands. The breeding period extends from late February to July, depending on weather and altitude. In highland populations it may extend to the end of July. In warm years the newts living at low elevations remain active throughout the year. In the southern Mediterranean part of the range, where summer is dry, the seasonal activity is shifted to the wet and warm winter period, and the adults may leave the water even in February.
The males are territorial, even more territorial than other European newts of the genus Triturus. Spawning is preceded by courtship, in general similar to that of the Smooth Newt (Triturus vulgaris). Clutch contains 59-240 eggs deposited singly or in short chains. The eggs are deposited in portions of 1-53 eggs per day at 2-11 day intervals. Embryogenesis takes 12-30 days, and metamorphosis is completed after 70-150 days. In a few mountain ponds some larvae (i.e. those hatched from the last clutches) hibernate and finish their transformation the following year. Sexual maturity is attained at 3 - 5 years; maximum longevity was estimated as 8 - 21 years. After transition to active feeding, T. vittatus larvae eat microcrustaceans. Their prey spectrum later expands because of increasing numbers of molluscs and insects. Recently metamorphosed juveniles consume only terrestrial prey such as Collembola, Aphidinea, larval Hydrophilidae, Chrysomelidae and Diptera. Like other newt species during the aquatic phase, adult newts prey mainly on aquatic molluscs, crustaceans and insects. During the aquatic phase, adult T. vittatus often eat amphibian larvae. Cannibalism at nesting sites in the form of oophagy appears to be widespread, especially among females, which come into contact with recently deposited eggs more often than males. Many invertebrates and vertebrates, including some species of amphibians, are known as natural enemies of this newt.
Although T. ophryticus is more common in many places of the Caucasus and less sensitive to low humidity than other congeneric species, many populations of this newt are declining. For example, some populations near Tbilisi City, Georgia, described by Nikolsky (1913) became extinct.
Forest destruction, landscape amelioration leading to the destruction of wetlands, overpasturage of cattle, urbanization, industrial pollution and use of pesticides and artificial fertilizers have a negative influence on populations of this species. The species has a low ability for synanthropization, which enhances the significance of these factors. In the 1990s, regular illegal collecting and trade of adult newts for terrarium amateurs posed a serious threat to its populations. These animals in their breeding period are very attractive for pet keepers and are regularly sold in some large cities of the former Soviet Union, and sometimes exported abroad.