Rattlesnakes, Newts, and Toads: Chemical Defenses in California Reptiles and Amphibians

Please join us Monday March 4, 2019 at 7PM for an informative session on defense mechanisms of some of California’s fauna.

How is it that a single Rough-skinned Newt contains enough toxin in its skin to kill 58 humans? Why can some garter snakes feast on newts without any ill effects? Finding food and avoiding becoming somebody else’s meal are powerful forces for natural selection. This is certainly true if we examine how some of California’s snakes, salamanders, and frogs survive and thrive. Many of our native species employ powerful toxins in defense against predators. In some cases, the toxins are fairly mild and work by making the potential prey merely distasteful. However, in other species the toxins are incredibly powerful, capable of causing death.

Robert Hansen has a long-standing interest in the amphibians and reptiles of the American Southwest and Mexico. His research has included studying the ecology and systematics of salamanders, work that has led to descriptions of three new species in California. He is also keenly interested in desert snake communities, and in an ongoing study begun in 1982, he and collaborators have examined the local distribution, relative abundance, and activity patterns of snakes at the interface of the southern Sierra Nevada and Mojave Desert of California. An accomplished photographer, his photos of herpetological subjects have appeared in numerous books and journal articles. Since 1991, he has been Editor of Herpetological Review, a quarterly journal published by the Society for the Study of Amphibians and Reptiles. In 2015, he received the SSAR Presidential Award for Lifetime Achievement in Herpetology.

Who: Robert Hansen

When: March 4, 2019 at 7PM

Where: Santa Fe Basque, 3110 N Maroa Ave., Fresno, CA 93704

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