Wing of bat eye of newt so the incantation may go. What is safe to eat and what is not. A good thing to know in any situation, and vital when you are trying to survive. The Oregon Coast has much to offer on both counts. Take the Rough Skinned Newt for instance. I have been on a mission to discover what native Oregonians know about this largely unnoticed common little forest dweller. As it turns out, not much.
Rough Skinned Newt
I figured the best way to observe this rather unassuming “herp” was to offer it lunch. I hunted around for something that wouldn’t move faster than the newt or me. And came up with a short, fat worm.
Depositing it within its field of vision, or so I thought, I waited to see if it would show any interest. Not much, okay, so move lunch a little closer, success! Now either Newts poor vision or it figured it should remain inert hoping the worm would not detect it. Who knows for sure, but fast they are not.
Sporting a healed “war wound” it appears to be a leisure diner – not a fast food sort of guy. So the question is, “Can you eat it?” Only if you want an early entrance to the “pearly gates”.
– Taricha: Greek – preserved mummy, possibly referring to the rough-skinned appearance. granulosa: Latin – full of small grains, referring to the rough skin of terrestrial adults.
About the time it takes for you to order and consume a Big Mac, 15-30 minutes and you are headed for the pearly gates. One rough-skinned newt divided up and eaten can kill 17 people.
Just what is this deadly compound? Sushi enthusiasts take note…the poison is tetrodotoxin, or TTX. And is found in Japanese puffer fish and some species of South American frogs.
No known antidote exists for a newt’s poison, packed by both juveniles and adults throughout their bodies, and even their eggs. (See the Poison Control website).
Garter snakes appear to be the only successful consumers providing the toxicity is not too high, otherwise the snake will become paralyzed making it the “last supper.”
Even though they have no predators essentially they will remind you when they fear getting roughed up. The posturing is quite endearing, called an “unken reflex” which reminds you of the contortions of a gymnast. With it’s eyes closed, back swayed and tail curled over its body, blaze orange meets the eye in an unspoken entreaty, “don’t hurt me and don’t eat me.”
“Courtship is an elaborate and lengthy affair. The male grasps the female behind her front legs and crawls on her back, locking onto her and holding her tight for hours, underwater, where the two breathe through their skin.
Afterward, the male walks in front of his mate — underwater. As he walks along in the shallows, she follows closely, picking up jellied packets he has left topped with a dollop of sperm. She stores the sperm inside her reproductive tract until she lays her eggs. The fertilized eggs are deposited one at a time on subaquatic vegetation.
Newt Larvae hatch out within about a month, depending on water temperature. They emerge equipped with tiny, feathered external gills, giving them a space-alien appearance. The newts spend the spring and summer swimming about and chowing down on larvae and other tiny fare.
By August, their feathered gills have been re-absorbed to tiny nubbins and the newts have grown lungs and nostrils. They head to the uplands and the forest with the coming of the autumn rains.”
~ Lynda V. Mapes
This miniature dinosaur looking creature may look tempting to the palate. But as a survival instructor I can recommend you eliminate these reptiles from your menu; and, the next time your buddy says, “I dare you to eat this mate!” Smile and say, “After you!”