The last few weeks have been slow-going in aquarium land. I did manage to get ahold of an angle iron stand, which I’d like to paint and then cover eventually to avoid too much exposure to salt water. I also managed to acquire some 2 x 6 boards to lay across the bottom so I can set up the sump.
Last night I went to the hardware store and managed to get at least some of the plumbing materials I need. Here’s a picture of that haul:
The flexible tubing is for the intake line. Theres also an adapter and a hose clamp to secure it to the PVC pipe that’s attached to the overflow. The two elbows and the thinner pipe are going to be part of my return, but I still need the soft plumbed part for that and the check valve for the pump. (I didn’t buy that yet because I’m still not quite sure what I’m doing for the return),
Amphibian of the Week this week is Taricha granulosa, the rough-skinned newt. The pictures provided for today’s entry were sent in by Rev. Howard Furst via Twitter. They are all photos of his pet captive bred newts, and they are 18 years old! At first glance, these guys seem sort of unremarkable. They’re brown, bumpy and about 4 or 5 inches long. They have a bright orange belly, and pretty typical newt features, although they are on the bulkier side. What makes these newts interesting, is how ridiculously, absurdly, hilariously toxic they are. These newts are the most poisonous vertebrate animal in North America, using tetradotoxin (aka TTX), the same neurotoxic poison used by pufferfish, blue-ringed octopuses and other marine animals.
Why are they so damn poisonous? It’s interesting to note that some populations of these newts are a lot more toxic than others. They’re found all around the Pacific Northwest, in fact as a kid I always knew them as “Oregon Newts,” and there are a few different species of Taricha, but what the super toxic ones all seem to have in common is that they are all preyed on by toxin resistant predators. In most cases, it’s by garter snakes. The garters can eat them, with apparently no ill-effects. The explanation is cool: an evolutionary arms race is happening that began with a slightly toxic population of newts, and a slightly resistant (meaning the snake was able to survive)snake. They’ve been upping the ante successively with more poison and more resistance in the millennia that followed, and it’s resulted in an animal that is unbelievably outgunning most predators.
How poisonous are they? Well, there’s a story, which I honestly thought might be an urban legend but apparently isn’t, about a group of men camping in the woods. A rough skinned newt somehow crawled into the teapot they were boiling water in and EVERYONE died. There are other accounts of people unwisely putting these animals in their mouths and ending up similarly deceased.
And you know what’s particularly hilarious about that? As a kid, these were sold in virtually every pet store in my area for less than $10, with absolutely no instruction on the fact that they were harmful. I owned a pair of them as a nine year old, and if my mom had known I owned one of the most toxic animals on the continent she would have freaked.
The year was 2002. I was an animation student in Pittsburgh, and I was struggling. To this day, I still think back on it as one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. I was 19. I had moved away from home for the first time that fall. And most of my life I had been told I was pretty good at drawing. But I was failing one of my first major classes, Character and Object Design 101. And it wasn’t even because I was particularly bad. I was not used to being challenged.