Spanish ribbed newt – Pleurodeles waltl

Spanish ribbed newt (image: wikipedia)

Intergalactic amphibian’s superhero defence mechanism

One species of amphibian has evolved a bizarre and painful sounding defence mechanism. When threatened the Spanish ribbed newt pushes out its ribs until they pierce through its body acting as a row of barbs – in many ways a real-life example of the mutant comic book hero Wolverine’s super powers!

But there is even more to the story. At the same time as pushing its ribs out the newt begins to secrete poison from special glands on its body. The poison coated ribs create a highly effective stinging tool, injecting toxins through the thin skin in predator’s mouths.  The newt’s effective immune system and collagen coated ribs mean the pierced skin quickly regrows without infection.  Curiously, the newt seems to experience no ill-effects from being coated in poison!

First noticed by scientists in 1879, the newt’s extraordinary adaptation has only recently been fully understood through the use of x-ray technology.  Native to the southern Iberian Peninsula (Spain, Portugal, Gibraltar) and Morocco, this large (30cm +) newt inhabits the cool, dark waters of ponds and wells.

Amazingly, since the 1980s, the Spanish ribbed newt has been repeatedly flown into outer space.  The newt’s unique reproductive and regenerative characteristics mean that it is highly useful for scientific experiments on the physical effects of outer space.

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Trackback: The Hairy Frog – Trichobatrachus robustus « The BioFresh Cabinet of Freshwater Curiosities

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