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Eye of Newt

The witches scene in Shakespeare’s “Macbeth” describes a concoction that consists of “Eye of newt and toe of frog, Wool of bat and tongue of dog…” Luckily, these terms refer to plants, not actual animal parts. Eye of newt is a pseudonym for mustard seed. Nevertheless, I was happy to find a rough-skinned newt the other day with its two silver eyes, given that it’s Halloween season.

 

Even scarier than the witch’s curse is the rough-skinned newt itself. It is the most poisonous newt around, secreting tetrodotoxin through its skin. When ingested, it causes paralysis and death by asphyxiation. Fun fact: this is the same toxin found in pufferfish.

 

The only predator to the rough-skinned newt is the garter snake, which has evolved a resistance to the toxin. This is an amazing case of coevolution. The rough-skinned newt has been found to secrete way more poisonous toxins than needed to kill other potential predators to try to win the arms race against the garter snake. As if that isn’t enough, newts can avoid garter snakes by detecting their location through a chemical signature that is released by the snakes when they are digesting a rough-skinned newt.

 

All in all, keep an eye out for these cool little guys on the trail after a rain. Give them their rightful distance, or you might find yourself on the wrong side of the witch’s curse!

 

Happy Halloween!

 

-MS

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