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Finding Toxic Alaskan GOLD!

08-31-2012

By Alison Ashton, Expedition Guide, Wilderness Discoverer

We found GOLD in Southeast Alaska. Did we strike it rich? Well, it depends on who you ask, but in fact finding a rough-skinned newt with its golden underside is just as spectacular as finding the infamous precious metal that altered the history of this last frontier.

Hikers

The brave group of newt seekers from the Wilderness Discoverer

Rough-skinned newts range from San Francisco Bay area to southern Alaska. They are without a doubt one of the coolest amphibians to find when bushwhacking through shoulder-high grass on the outskirts of the Tongass National Forest’s densely wooded areas. You can just imagine how elated our group was to find such a harmonious sight as witnessing several rough-skinned newts bathing in the nutrient-rich waters of Kuiu, one of the islands in the world’s largest temperate rainforest.

We were all thrilled to witness one of the most poisonous animals in the world. That is right, rough-skinned newts secrete tetrodotoxin (TTX), one of the most potent neurotoxins known to science. These animals are weight-for-weight 10 to 100 times as lethal as black widow spider venom, but in general are only dangerous if ingested. Yet, we still thought it was best to place one of the newts in a Ziploc bag so we could admire its beauty up-close before releasing it back to its home.

Toxic newt

For safety's sake, the newt spent a few minutes in a ziploc baggie



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