Monday, March 3, 2014

rough-skinned newt ~ 03/03/14 ~ Purisima Creek


Often, I have to see something in person to really "get it".  Ken @ Nature of a Man showed me these very clearly defined rough-skinned newts.  Their dark color is distinctive, especially with a sharp, solid color divide, under the eye area, extending around the upper lip.  I found the color in my newt pictures can be wholly misleading from what I remember, depending on lighting conditions, and/or if a camera flash is used, and/or what the predominant surrounding color is, like these redwood needles here.  They look much darker in real life than my pictures indicate.

OK.  Love, love the toes.  Four in front, five in back and all dipped in yellow around the purlicue.  I find myself silently squealing like an 80's Valley Girl, "Like, oh my god!  Awesome!"

Yeah, but... I still don't get the eye margin and lower eyelid diagnostics when compared to CA newts (T. torosa).  We've noted quite a bit of gradation of characteristics among individual newts, especially at Stevens Creek where we saw so many.  It seems like T. granulosa and T. torosa intergrade, but I'm not sure that's known for a fact.  I believe Ken is gathering observational evidence.

I dunno, everyone sees things a little differently.  A friend once claimed that different cultures see colors very differently, and I suspect he was right.  I didn't necessarily agree with his claim of cultural basis, although that could very well be true.  I figure different groups of people would have natural genetic differences in how their eyes physically process information.  It's like how I, an Asian, can squat very low, and my husband, a Scandanavian, can barely cross his legs.  Same difference.

regenerating newt tail

It's crazy cool how newts can regrow body parts.  Remember for a while there, I had considered going back to school to study salamanders?  After talking it over with numerous people, I have decided it's not the best idea for me.  First, I didn't have any pressing questions about them.  What would I research?  I already know I don't like working on someone else's passion project, particularly when they die on me and leave me with a mess of handwritten scraps.  I want to follow my own questions and paths.  Plus, if I were honest, I truly only wanted to raise newts and salamanders 'cause they're cute, but under the guise of "in the name of science" (hey, it happens).  To do this, I'd have to handle them a lot.  Guess what?  They're toxic, very much so, producing tetrodotoxin (TTX), "the most poisonous nonprotein substance known to scientists."  Yeah, sure, you can be careful washing hands and such, but can you be sure to be careful all the time?  Ever since my first collegiate research project involving the unusual mating ritual of an x-large, yet incredibly beautiful, tropical mosquito (Limatus durhamii), I knew fairly quickly from first-hand experience (i.e., many itchy, sleepless nights with arms swollen from a colony's worth of female mosquito bites) that I did not want to study anything that sucks blood, bites, stings, poisons, or kills.  Seriously.  Then, there's another conundrum surrounding all herps, the dratted pet trade.  I don't know if it is "dratted" and bad, but it's what I've heard.  So that leads to a lot of secrecy, loads, so secret the CIA... uh, nevermind.


Jennifer said...

I clicked on the link about toxic they are and was astonished. 25,000 mice killed by one newt - yikes.
Scares me to think of Bowie getting a hold of one.

GretchenJoanna said...

I didn't know about the toxicity of these creatures. I'm glad that you have the option of taking amazing photographs of them, so you don't have to feel *too* bad about not handling them.

Neil Kelley said...

You positively CRUSHED that granulosa in the top pic.

Your post reminded me of my parallel herping adventures in Nor Cal so many years ago. (I know I shouldn't have been so grabby, I was young and dumb back then).

Pretty bummed I am missing out on the California nature blogger renaissance you all are cooking up these days.

Imperfect and Tense said...

I was about to say "Yeah, stick with butterflies and moths, they're safer." Then I remembered that the caterpillars of many species are not nice to handle.

I don't think I'll be changing my dragonfly allegiance any time soon!

Katie (Nature ID) said...

Jennifer, thanks for our talk and pointing out my bias against the pet trade. It's only what I've heard, although I would probably really enjoy keeping a herp as a pet myself. I loved my hamsters and parakeets, and of course I've raised all kinds of invertebrates.

Gretchen, I do tend to have a mostly hands-off approach to nature. Sometimes, I can't help myself: I feel my need to ID doesn't exceed an animal's right to live its life in relative peace.

Thanks, Neil. We're human and we're naturally curious creatures. It's okay; no judgement. I see you keep a couple "friends" yourself. If you should ever head back for a visit, I'll organize a CA nature blogger outing just for you. Did you ever meet Nature of a Man?

Graeme, I learned while raising io moths, complete with urticarious spines, that's it's better to have a larger container and allow the caterpillars to move themselves over to fresh food. Eh-hem.

GretchenJoanna said...

Oh, those little lizards (in the link you put in a comment)...they are almost cute! I can see why you wouldn't want to be too legalistic about being hands-off.