Did You Know? (Newt Edition)

That all newts are salamanders but not all salamanders are newts?

I found this information on the Facts About Newts page from the Live Science website.

Tree Frogs, Mud Puppies and other Amphibians by Daniel Gilpin is a good book for beginners interested in amphibians. It has a lot of very detailed pictures and fun ‘gross’ information.

The California newt and the rough-skinned newt excrete a toxin from their skin that can be deadly to humans or other animals. The toxin excreted by the California newt (Taricha torosa) is known as tetrodotoxin (TTX), the same neurotoxin found in pufferfish.

Pufferfish, also called blowfish, live in tropical waters. They are prepared as a delicacy called fugu in Japan. You need to have a special permit and training to prepare this potentially deadly dish. It is also illegal to serve to the Emperor of Japan, as one fish has enough poison to kill 30 adults. The Puffer Fish by Alicia Z. Klepeis tells us there are about 120 different kinds of pufferfish.

There are many other animals that can be toxic: spiders, snakes, jellyfish, bees, wasps, scorpions and even the platypus!  They can use their teeth, fangs, stingers, spines or spurs to introduce their venom into you. The book Venom by Marilyn Singer tells all about them.

Eye of Newt and Toe of Frog, Adder’s Fork and Lizard’s Leg by Marty Crump gives the lore and mythology of amphibians and reptiles. One well known example is the snake in the garden of Eden. Other examples would be the rod of Asclepius (the snake on a rod) used to represent the Western medical profession and the Caduceus (2 snakes entwined on a staff with wings) for commerce and negotiation and also used by the U.S. Army and some other medical organizations. For the play Macbeth Shakespeare wrote of three witches around a cauldron using animal parts as ingredients (see the title of this book) which spurred the world’s imagination.

If eye of newt and toe of frog are basic ingredients for witch’s brew, it makes me wonder where they get their ingredients? And what do they do with the rest of the newt? We have spell books at the library, to help you find out: Spells for Peace of Mind: How to Conjure Calm and Overcome Stress, Worry, and Anxiety by Cerridwen Greenleafor and The Big Book of Practical Spells: Everyday Magic that Works by Judika Illes use ingredients such as salt, candles, crystals, and a whole list of herbs.

Of course, stories about witches and wizards make for popular fiction reading as well. The Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling is a prime example of that!  Another fun series is Bella Broomstick by Lou Kuenzler.

Newts make me think of Newton. Isaac Newton discovered the first law of motion: an object at rest tends to stay at rest and an object in motion tends to stay in motion. Isaac Newton and Physics for Kids by Kerry Logan Hollihan tells about Isaac Newtons’ life and discoveries with twenty-one science experiments kids can recreate. We have many other books about him such as Isaac Newton: The Asshole who Reinvented the Universe by Florian Freistetter who tells us that Newton wasn’t always a nice guy.

And while we are talking about Newton, THAT reminds me of Fig Newtons! They are a favorite “healthy” cookie. I mean, they have fruit, right? How bad can they be for you? A Fistful of Fig Newtons by Jean Shepherd – best known for his story/movie A Christmas Story where Ralphie Parker wants a BB gun – is a collection of short stories based on his life…. Like the cookies, just one won’t be enough. You’ll want to read the whole book!