Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Red-spotted Newt

Another cool find over the weekend was this critter, a red eft. The red eft is the terrestrial stage of the Red-Spotted Newt (Notophthalmus viridescens viridescens). This animal is fascinating on so many levels.

I found this salamander scrambling over the forest floor. It looked like it was on a mission. And I found out that it really was. Red-spotted Newts have a three stage life-cycle. The first stage is an aquatic larval stage, where it has gills. Next is the red eft, a terrestrial stage which is responsible for dispersing the population and widening the gene pool. It explores new ponds and thereby insures survival and health of the population. If these salamanders were just to stay in one little pond and something happened, say a large predator or a pollution incident, the whole population could be wiped out. So, journeying out and finding new ponds is an important mission for the salamander. The last stage is also aquatic, the Red-spotted Newt adult. This stage of the salamander is olive green with red spots. It also has a laterally compressed tail, which means it is flattened on the sides, to aid in swimming.

Newts do not have to worry about too many predators because they are toxic. The skin of one red eft can kill the equivalent of about 2,500 mice. The adult newt's skin is less toxic but can still kill approximately 250 mice. If a fish or other predator does take a bite, still no worries. Newts can regenerate body parts. Here is a neat website that shows time-lapsed photography of a newt regenerating a limb. They recently discovered that Red-spotted Newts can even regenerate heart tissue. Nature never ceases to amaze me!

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