Friday, March 25, 2011

Taricha torosa--California Newt

This is an egg mass of the California Newt in the Japanese pool at the UC Botanical Garden. The eggs can be easily see within the toxic gel which protects the eggs from predators. The newts themselves are also toxic and have be use for nefarious deeds. They are so toxic that few predators eat them, but garter snakes have developed a resistance and are able to consume. them. They are also in evidence in the pond, but they are camouflaged, so it take a bit of looking to find them. When you do see them, they look very comfortable in the water, but they are also comfortable on land; they are amphibians. They generally spend February to June in the water, and the rest of the year on land, although it may take the larvae a couple of years to mature enough to leave the pond. During their migration period South Park Drive in Tilden Regional Park is closed to protect them from cars. Why does the newt cross the road? To get to the pool where it breeds.

News are predators, eating earthworms, snails, slugs, sowbugs, mosquito larvae, etc.

Some populations of newts have been reduced due to introduced species such as mosquito fish. I guess those fish have a resistance to the toxin also, and when they are introduced to kill mosquitoes, they also kill newts.

The Rough-Skin Newt also lays eggs in the garden, but that species lays eggs one at a time and wraps them in vegetation, so people are unlikely to see them.

The newts are active now and it is fun to watch their antics. I guess that is why some people keep them as pets. I wouldn't. I would not want a pet covered in toxic slime!

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