Newtons Law of Cuteness
Little bulging eyes resting upon a bumpy orange head raise droopily to meet your own. They slowly blink and the little yellow spot appears in the iris. First the shoulders and then the head get tossed along after as the newt sprawls for some ungainly and oh so adorable steps across the palm of your hand. In a wild swinging motion that begins in the shoulders these semi-aquatic creatures filled with abundant cuteness somehow survive in the same dangerous wilderness as the grizzled mountain lion and coyote.
Is it okay for something to be this cute? Found this little newt way out of the creek and up a mountain! Is he avoiding high creek flows caused by the rains?
Yet the newt in its pudgy opulence remains safe and sound. Without fangs or claws, the top speed of your local freeway at 5 PM, this animal is unquestioned in its lifecycle. Its secret lies with its beautiful coloration. The bright orange shining from below his belly indicates a dangerous flavor. Known as aposematic coloration, the newt is colored brightly to indicate that it contains a deadly toxin. One bite, and that one bite shall be your last.
Here is where the little newt was hiding, underneath a fallen log.
Thankfully these little butterballs are only dangerous if ingested, so some very calm and gentle handling is okay. The oils in our skins can clog the pores of many amphibians, and since they respirate through their skin, too much handling can make it hard for them to breathe. So it is important to quell the urge to hold these creatures for too long. However, if you wet your hand and briefly lift the little guy to your eyes, I believe the wonder and amazement from this experience is worth it. Just ensure you are gentle and careful.
Newts usually hang out in the water like this. How many newts can you count? Answer at the bottom of the article!
I have been oh so lucky to interact with these lovely creatures many times, and something that always strikes me is their deep calmness. Of course every newt has its own personality, and reacts differently depending on their personal characteristics. However, the majority of these California newts almost seem like they are aware of their latent poison. They move in this slow silly way with the occasional burst of energy swimming to the surface, only to let themselves slowly sink back down. It is truly a wonder that they are able to capture prey!
This adult male newt is climbing right out of the creek!
It must be the perfect storm of factors to make newts have their fabled calm behavior. I think naturally they are just slow moving creatures, some will sit in one spot for an entire day. Even when they do move it's a feat of patience, it may be five minutes between each step. I’ve watched them freeze mid step for an hour almost as if regretting starting the step at all. Naturally being lazy and carefree, and having innate poison, these newts don’t have much to do, or much to fear. No predators and an easy life, no wonder they are so docile!
He was climbing up and out of the creek right before a big rainstorm hit. Maybe he had a premonition!
Although they move in the slowness of a champion chess player they are still aware and ahead of the curb. The photos of newts throughout this blog detail two newts making use of their intellect. I discovered both of these newts on their way up and out of the creek. The little one had already climbed a few hundred meters out of the creek and taken residence under a log. Why are newts, the most aquatic of the California amphibians, so far out of the water? It may be a coincidence but they were climbing up and out of the creek just before a massive rainstorm hit. The high flows caused by this in the creek would wash them straight to the ocean, so getting out of the creek is a priority!
The big head, and eyes facing forward are indicators of a predatory animal. Its hard to believe this little dollop of happiness is actually feared by insects.
How did they know the rain was coming? Did they even know? When I asked the newts they just stared at me rather blankly. These newts do travel long distances on land during the summer, as the creeks dry up they need to head to wetted pools, or find a different moist hiding place. Some amphibians locate water by smell, and maybe the newts do the same. Maybe, they were able to smell the rain on the horizon. Either way these creatures are some of my favorites. Their calm demeanor is something that everyone could take lessons from. I certainly feel relaxed and happy after every newt I see. So take some time out of your day to relax, breathe, and enjoy the newts!
Answer: Five Newts, although throughout the whole pool there were over 50!
If you enjoyed, please check out this short video about these newts: https://youtube.com/shorts/XLBsHJlFCF0?feature=share
Isaac Yelchin is foremost a herpetologist. He studies lizards, frogs, newts, and the like. Specifically, he spends all day and night thinking about what it is like to be an animal. What are the animals thinking about? What is their perspective? When he should be working, he sits and stares at his pet lizard asking himself these questions.