Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Efts Efts Everywhere

Our fecund forest is full of efts. Baby newts. Juvenile salamanders. Adolescent amphibia. Pubescent Salamandridae.

Some summer days they are everywhere, especially after a warm rain. L. likes to count them on her walks on the hill, one day noting 33 or 34 in a one-hour walk (this is a woman who keeps track of where and when she finds coins on the ground and can show you year-over-year trend information from the results. FY ‘08 was a particularly good one she reported). I sometimes start a hike up the hill with the intention of counting the efts but never get past 9 or 10 before I forget and then get mixed up –- does that make ten or eleven… or was it nine? -- guess who’s the financial wizard in our family?

Anyway, these lovely orange/red creatures are Notophthalmus viridescens, or Red-spotted newt, a.k.a. Eastern newt. These pictured here are the efts, the newts in their childhoods. They live on the forest floor dining on fly larvae, spiders, mites and other delicious tidbits until, after 3-7 years as happy orange children, they grow up and turn in to full-fledged aquatic salamanders and lose their lovely orange glows in favor of reptilian olive green with red spots.

These clever efts evidently exude a nasty secretion from their skin that kills predators. That would be quite a surprise, ehh… just when you’re enjoying a nice mouthful of newt, poof! you’re dead… I myself have never touched one and Petey and Suzy blessedly show no interest.

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