Newts of the World

14Jul11

An octogenerian wearing an Akubra hat walks into a New York bar with a newt on his shoulder and orders a Fosters. The barman says “What’s that on your shoulder?”  In a mid-Atlantic accent with a residue of Strine the man replies “It’s not a chip, it’s my pet newt and his name is Tiny.”   Why do you call him Tiny?”  asks the barman. The man replies “Because he’s my newt”.

Defining Newts
Newts are defined in Dictionary.com as any of various small semiaquatic amphibians, having a long slender body and tail and short feeble legs. In the Slang Dictionary newt is a stupid person; a dull and uninteresting person as in Don’t act like such a newt. In Australasia newt is also a comparative simile with which to describe a person’s excessive alcoholic intake.

Newt Gingrich
Wikipedia takes us a little further down the newt track, first with political dinosaur Newt Gingrich, the archetypal Newt Age politician who is more at home with the G&T party than the Tea Party*. It then moves on to other more fascinating reptiles.

The Common Newt
Adult newts such as Europe’s Triturus vulgaris, the common newt,  have lizard-like bodies and may be either fully aquatic, living permanently in the water, or semi-aquatic, living terrestrially but returning to the water each year to breed.

Regeneration
Newts have the uncanny ability to regenerate limbs, eyes, spinal cords, hearts, intestines, and upper and lower jaws. The cells at the site of the injury have the ability to de-differentiate, reproduce rapidly, and differentiate again to create a new limb or organ.

Breeding Season
The main breeding season for newts is between the months of June and July-about now, in fact-after courtship rituals of varying complexity, which take place in ponds or slow moving streams. During the next few months the tadpoles undergo metamorphosis, during which they develop legs, and the gills are absorbed and replaced by air-breathing lungs. This year, sudden global cooling, mediated by a perfect storm, has disrupted the breeding season, though the Marching Season in Northern Ireland is happily unaffected.

Colour Changes
Some species, such as the North American newt, also become more brightly coloured during this phase. This is accentuated in election year. Once fully metamorphosised they leave the water and live a terrestrial life, when they are known as “efts”, or occasionally, as “lefts”, though this surprising tendency appears to be self-righting. 

Amphibious Orientation
Only when the eft reaches adulthood will the North American species return to live in water, rarely venturing back onto the land. Conversely, most European species live their adult lives on land and only visit water to breed.

Toxicity
Many newts produce toxins in their skin secretions as a defense mechanism against predators. The Taricha newt of western North America is particularly toxic and produces more than enough tetrodotoxin to kill adult humans.

Protected Species
In Europe, nine classes of newts are listed as “strictly protected fauna species” under appendix II of the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats*. This protection order apparently does not cover the peripatetic Triturus murdochus, which oscillates between North America and the United Kingdom, with occasional forays Downunder.

Newt’s Corpse Prediction
We’ve already had the end of the World. Eminent futurologist Ken Ring predicts  that another newt’s corpse will be discovered before the last full moon of 2011. This could be the harbinger of the wholesale extinction of the newt species.

But given that the Mayan Calendar runs out on 21 December 2011 this will be only small-indeed minute- beer.

*Blinks
Newt Gingrich – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Newt

#Lyall Lukey 14 July 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
http://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/ My other (bit more serious) blog 

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One Response to “Newts of the World”

  1. 1 Kelvin Duncan

    A college student with a bad speech impediment got a great response to his verbal ad over university radio offering “great phothoths of newths”. But the buyers were all disappointed when all they got were photos of newts.


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