Out There

Canadian Wildlife - - FEATURES -

The rough-skinned newt, Canada’s most poi­sonous sala­man­der, is a gen­uinely un­usual species

SCI­EN­TIFIC NAME

Taricha gran­u­losa

RE­GION

Coastal Bri­tish Columbia in ma­ture forests

CON­SER­VA­TION STA­TUS

Least con­cern

WHY SO SPE­CIAL

The most poi­sonous sala­man­der in Canada

COOL FACTOR

The skin of this small newt con­tains the most po­tent skin toxin of any am­phib­ian in North Amer­ica, per­haps the world. The toxin, called tetrodotoxin, is the same nerve poi­son present in puffer­fish that is served as “fugu” — the Ja­panese seafood del­i­cacy pre­pared by spe­cially trained chefs. Should a preda­tor grab the newt, it arches its back and curls its tail to ex­pose its bright yel­low un­der­side as a con­spic­u­ous warn­ing of its dan­ger­ous tox­i­c­ity. De­spite this deadly chem­i­cal de­fence, some pop­u­la­tions of the com­mon garter snake (Thamnophis sir­talis) have evolved re­sis­tance to the toxin and read­ily prey on the newts. (See page 26 for more on the ex­tra­or­di­nary adapt­abil­ity of garter snakes.)

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