Nature in Santa Clarita…It's not what you look at but what you see.
No – this is not one of the first salvos in the 2008 election. I’m referring to our native California Newt, which has a distinctive way of fending off predators. If a predator gets too close, the Newt will first gives a warning by raising its head and tail, exposing its yellowish-orange underbelly.
But if the predator continues the attack, the Newt excretes a neurotoxin through its skin – a toxin that causes paralysis and even death to the predator. The toxin, tetrodotoxin is the same as found in pufferfish and acts by blocking fast sodium channels in nerve cells. There is no known antidote.
It’s believed the newt does not produce this toxin; rather, it acquires the toxin by consuming the bacteria that produce the toxin. In a way, this is similar to the way humans become toxic to invading bacteria by taking an antibiotic capsule. It’s not too dangerous to humans, unless you try to eat one or touch one when you have a cut on your skin. But this is just one more reason why you should keep your dog on a leash.
There are a few native predators, such as gartersnakes, that are resistant to this toxin. Of greater concern are introduced species, such as crayfish. Not only do these crayfish eat newt eggs and larvae, they also compete for space during the breeding season. That’s one reason why the California Newt is currently a California Special Concern species (DFG-CSC). The other reason is that that its habitats are fragmented, due to in part to our dry southern California climate and pressure from human development. Like all salamanders, the California Newt needs water in order to reproduce.
Our next Full Moon Hike, entitled Why do frogs talk at night?, is scheduled at Towsley Canyon on Sunday, April 1st, from 6:30-8:30 PM. Towsley Canyon is located on the Old Road, west of I-5 and about 1/4 mile south of the Calgrove exit.
You can listen to stories like this every Friday morning at 7:10 a.m. on "The Hike Report", brought to you by your hometown radio station KHTS (AM1220) and by the Mountains Recreation and Conservation Authority.
For our complete hike and activity schedule and for trail maps, go to www.LAMountains.com.
To see what's playing on radio station KHTS, go to www.hometownstation.com/or tune in to AM 1220.