It’s what they do in spring: two species of western newt — the California and rough-skin varieties — flock to the UC Botanical Garden’s scenic Japanese Pool (where they probably were born) to swim, socialize, have amphibious sex, and watch the people who pause to observe them.
Fortunately for all concerned, most humans aren’t attracted to the local newts as gourmet delicacies — they exude a predator-discouraging toxin called tetrodotoxin, one of the most lethal known to science. (Of the two, the rough-skinned’s chemical defense has a much bigger wallop; it’s ten times as powerful as its California cousin’s.)
But the small salamandrids aren’t aggressive, and their ways can be quite charming. Garden director Paul Licht talks about them in a recent podcast. Newts were one of Licht’s research topics early in his career, which spans more than four decades at Berkeley as professor, divisional dean, L&S dean, and, since his relatively recent shift to the plant side of the ledger, as head of the garden.