Newt's Niche

Date Posted:
Nov 06, 2021, 03:00 PM

Presenting Newt's Niche, MSF's first group sound vigil! Nick, Leyton, Bradley, Francisco, and I each found a nook along the creek upstream of where the Long Range Development Plan (LRDP) proposes to build a new upper campus road.

Two amphibious protagonists stand out in this habitat: The California giant salamander and the Rough-skinned newt. During the vigil, we found them both lounging in slow pockets of water. Upon some quick research, we later found out that the newts are incredibly poisonous and that their toxicity is the source of an intriguing interspecies collaboration. Alex Jones elaborates:

It's not venom, per se, but a toxin called tetrodotoxin (TTX)--the same substance that's in pufferfish and a few other highly toxic critters and is actually produced by a few different kinds of bacteria that live within the organisms.

The main nocturnal sound makers were the tree crickets. Listening back to the recordings, I found out that the crickets’ pitch fell by a minor third over the course of the night! Alex Jones speculated that this could be related to the drop in temperature at night. He said that at least for the snowy tree cricket (Oecanthus fultoni), which can be heard pulsing at 5:52, there’s a direct relation to temperature:

You can calculate the temperature from the snowy tree cricket---count how many pulses in 12.5 seconds and add 38 to get the temp. in Fahrenheit!

Another salient subjectivity in this habitat is the creek itself. It’s the only perennial stream on campus. The water’s reflection had a way of foregrounding the redwood trees and obscuring its depths. At dusk, when the water was pure reflection, I shone my bike light in and found a host of lively activities happening beneath (i.e. water beetles dancing around, newts wrestling each other). Water can be a metaphor for the experience of the listening prompts too, where with stretches of attentive listening, the water’s ripples reveal a sonic depth that unfolds over time.