Friday, 8 April 2011

Gone newt-ing

Hello hello everyone!

Exciting times here at the Made in Suisse household, Alf and I went on a mini-adventure yesterday looking for newts!

Yesterday truly was a spetacular day here in North Switzerland with temperatures in the full sun reaching 40 degrees celsius. We set off to Schaffhausen to help a PhD student at the University of Zürich catch amphibians. This student is working on the peptides (molecules) produced by the skin of amphibians following exposure to pathogens. In particular, she is interested in chytrid fungi which have been decimating amphibian populations worldwide.

Alf was first intrigued by all the frogs jumping in the ponds as we approached...

and decided to join in with the search!

Although there were plenty of frogs around, we were mostly interested in catching alpine newts

Check out their orange bellies!! Don't you just want to tickle them?? Such gorgeous creatures. As you can see, we operated true CSI style, first isolating all the newts in individual bags, wearing and changing disposable gloves between every individual. Each newt was swabbed using a giant ear-bud type instrument (belly, toes, tail and back) which will be processed in a lab.

I was surprised to find out that one of the biggest pain in a newt's life were young clams which often attach themselves on a newt's toes and eventually result in the loss of one or several toes for the newt. We found a couple of those unfortunate little guys...

Weather permiting, we may be going newt-ing again tomorrow... do drop by soon to see what we are up to!

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