Snikt! Amphibian stab attackers with sharp ribs

Who would win in a fight, Wolverine or Newt?

The Spanish ribbed newt (Pleurodeles waltl) is something of an amphibian Wolverine. When attacked, it can stab the attacker with its sharp ribs, piercing its own skin.

Studying the newt with modern photographic and X-ray imaging techniques the scientist have figured out how it accomplish this feat.

The explanation don’t involve an  x-gene, though:

When the newt becomes agitated or perceives a threat, it swings its ribs forward, increasing their angle to the spine by up to 50 degrees.

As it does this, the newt keeps the rest of its body still.

“The forward movement of the ribs increases the body size and stretches the skin to the point of piercing it,” says zoologist Egon Heiss of the University of Vienna in Austria. [BBC News]

The marvelous newt can also heal itself well enough that it suffers no major ill effects from even repeated skin piercing rib exposure.

There the similarity to Wolverine ends, however, because the sharp-ribbed newt has another trick up its sleeve: poison, which it can secrete poison onto its skin. So when a predator is stabbed by the newt’s ribs, it’s stabbed by ribs coted in poison that cause severe pain and possibly death.

When does the Spanish ribbed newt get its own movie?

Via io9.


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