Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Cute to look at...just don't put them in your mouth

Over the weekend, I was hiking in Big Basin with a friend...a nice long 12-mile jaunt through the redwood groves. It was wet from the recent rains, and this made for some interesting sights...newts everywhere. They were on the trails, next to the trails and soon enough we had the cute little buggers crawling on our hands. While watching them mosy about, we wondered aloud, "Why are they so slow? What predators do they have? They must taste bad, cause it sure is easy to find them."

Once home, I googled "salamander california woods" and quickly came across the taricha family of newts and learned that we had spotted the Coast Range Newt. After one sentence, my eyes were drawn to the red text in the second paragraph:
Warning The skin secretions of the newts of the genus Taricha contain toxins similar to those found in pufferfish liver. These are among the deadliest natural toxins yet discovered. A healthy adult human will die from eating just one newt. Care should be taken to wash hands thoroughly after handling newts

Yikes!!! We were going to die? (We shall see.) Did we really eat our lunch with our hands only minutes after handling those pokey fellows? (Yes.) What were we thinking? (We weren't.)

We forgot one big lesson from life. If something in nature is brightly-colored, that typically means...HELLO, IF YOU EAT ME, YOU WILL DIE. Luckily, neither of us did. Later I discovered that these specific newts aren't all that toxic, so my fears were unwarranted. My comment/advice on newts: yes, they are cute to look at...just don't put them in your mouth.

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