The SPANISH RIBBED NEWT is like an amphibian version of WOLVERINE. It uses its spikey ribs as a defence mechanism, pushing them through its own skin to release venom and then it quickly heals itself.
The Spanish Ribbed Newt is endemic to the central and southern Iberian Peninsula and Morocco. It is known for its sharp ribs which can puncture through its side and, as such, is also called sharp-ribbed newt. It has TUBERCLES, running down each side. Through these its sharp ribs can puncture, causing little harm to the newt. While pushing its ribs out, the newt begins to secrete POISON from special glands on its body. The poison-coated ribs create a highly-effective stinging mechanism, injecting toxins through the thin skin in the predator’s mouth. The newt’s effective immune system and collagen-coted ribs quickly regrows without infection, thus healing itself.
This amphibian grows up to 30cm, but rarely more than 20 cm (in captivity) Its colour is dark grey (dorsally) and lighter grey on its ventral side, with rust-coloured spots ——- where its ribs can protrude. It has a flat spade-shaped head and a long tail, which is about half its body-length. Males are more slender and, usually, smaller than the females. They are far more aquatic dwelling than other European tailed amphibians. Though they are quite capable of walking on land, most rarely leave the water, living usually in ponds, cisterns and ancient village wells that were common in Portugal and Spain in the past. They prefer cool, quiet and deep waters, where they feed on insects, worms and tadpoles.
The ribbed newt has been studied IN SPACE on, at least, 6 missions. The 1st ribbed newts, in space, may have been in 1985, on board BION-7. The 10 newts shared their journey with 2 rhesus macaques and 10rats, in an otherwise crewless Soviet Kosmos Satellite. In 1992, BION-10 also carried the newts on board, as did BION-11 in 1996. Research was continued later in 1996, by French-led experiments on the MIR space station, with follow-up studies in 1998 and 1999. FOTON–M2 also carried the newt in 2005.
The newts were chosen because they are a good MODEL ORGANISM for the study of MICRO-GRAVITY, and because of the female’s ability to retain live sperm, in her cloaca, for up to five months, allowing her to be inseminated on Earth and later (in space) have fertilisation induced through hormonal stimulation. Another advantage is that, their development is slow, so all the key stages of ONTOGENESIS can be observed, from the oocyte to swimming embryos and larvae.