Thursday, February 13, 2014

14 Days of Genitals, Day 13: The Poorly Named Newt

This is a rough skinned newt:

Why the aggressive posture? That's called the unken reflex, and it's meant to show how incredibly toxic they are. And they are INCREDIBLY toxic: their skin and organs contain tetradotoxin, the same poison as Japanese pufferfish.

This, on the other hand, is a dude newt ready for the newt equivalent of clubbing:
hello, ladiez
Notice the slimy exterior, quite contrary to the name? Well, that's because this newt doesn't want anyone getting a solid grasp on him. His equivalent of fingernails are pretty solid, and sharp though, because this is a grasp-but-don't-be-grasped world. See, in newt land, the acceptable way to court a lady is grab onto her... or whoever else is grabbing onto her. This can lead to a bit of a traffic jam for any unwary lady newt.

And by cuddle, we mean sex!
Yup. Newts have orgies. Being a slippery male means others are less likely to pull you off and take your spot. So the rough skin newt male spends a significant period of time slimy and not at all rough, and riding females around like bored, swimming bronco. It can take some time to evade her other suitors, and convince her to accept his spermatophore (sort of like a box of chocolates, but made of sperm).

Well, Meaghan's 4-year-old-nephew, they are sort of hugging. Technically this is called amplexus, which is a form of courtship that leads up to mating. Newts continue to hang onto or around their ladies after they've mated, too: it inhibits their receptivity towards further mating. This ensures that the clingy baby-daddy is the only possible baby daddy, cuz literally when he hangs around... she doesn't want to ever breed with anyone else. He basically lingers as a reminder that constant newt orgies are probably pretty exhausting, and wouldn't she just like to only have his babies?

Missed the previous days of genitals?! Have no fear, check out the links right here1234, 567891011, and 12!

Brodie Jr, Edmund D. "Investigations on the skin toxin of the adult rough-skinned newt, Taricha granulosa." Copeia (1968): 307-313.

Propper, Catherine R. "Courtship in the rough-skinned newt< i> Taricha granulosa</i>." Animal Behaviour 41.4 (1991): 547-554.

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